TODAY -

Educating Manipur : The Education District Way
- Part 2 -

T Vunglallian *



Second Thought: The 'Different Way' to Go About It:
We can start growing smaller, but surer by-

Dividing the Departments of Education (here i go again) into two Departments:
* the Manipur Hills Education Department (& Service) and
* the Manipur Valley Education Department (& Service).

To draw maximum benefit from such small is beautiful Departments, we must have two separate Ministers, two separate Secretaries/ Commissioners, two separate Directorates and two separate budgets etc., so that there can never be any sort of inter-transfer, or 'overlapping' (a word very applicable and relevant today). It would also actually help if the offices and buildings of the two Departments/ Services are as far apart as possible - one being deep in the Hills and the other in a far corner of the Valley.

[Note-(i): One is avoiding even the mention of "Imphal", because our powers-that-be flaunt all rules to have everything inside a 6x4 sq.km area around the CM's Bungalow, not minding even if it is in the middle of a rich wetland that Shri Jairam Ramesh from Delhi would be thrilled to protect as an 'eco-treasure'! Whereas the CEO Manipur just sees it as a good opportunity to 'pat' himself (pun intended) on the back! Anyway, my main message is: 'Go rural'].

Third Thought:

As we know our land and our people pretty well and if we still want to do something positive about education in it – we realize that the above two Departments/ Services are still too big for us! My solution to that lies in further decentralization. For instance, the Hills Department/ Service must be made smaller still – but still under the Hills Department/ Service – to be made more focus-able and manageable. Hence, we must have further sub-divisions, like (i) Manipur Hills Education Deptt/Service (Chandel District), (ii) MHED/S (Churachandpur District), and so on. Likewise, in the Valley: (i) MVED/S (Bishnupur District); (ii) MVED/S (Imphal East District) etc.

I trust my point about knowing our people well will be accepted when i say that the overwhelming majority of school – even college – teachers are already serving, or are trying their best to serve, in or within their own Districts only. Afterall you won't find a Paite teacher in a Mao village, nor a Tangkhul teacher in Tipaimukh,if you getmy point. On top of that there is quite a big number of teachers who prefer to be posted at Manipur's Timbuctoos, so that they can engage a substitute and go on doing their own thing in their home-town! They too only confirm my point. i rest my case. So,let'sdo what i am suggesting because that is what everyone wants!

Fourth Thought:

Yet again, i fear that in almost all cases, 'District' is still too big for us, or physically too far away (e.g. Imphal West vis-a-vis Jiribam, Churachandpur vis-a-vis Tipaimukh/ Henglep/ Thanlon etc.). Consequently, in keeping with both (a) the 'backward integration' aspect, and (b) our endemic problem of a peculiarly shameful feature, viz. 'the majority of government teachers are not going to nor will they be ever staying in their hill/ village posting, especially the remote ones, we could further have MHED/S Churachandpur 'HQ Zone'/ 'Singhat Zone'. Or MVED/S Imphal East 'Jiribam Zone' etc.

It is not denied that all this, as good as, amounts to a 'District Department/ Service', or, in other words … an 'Education District'. (i hope this is close to what Mr. Pauzachin Simte, a dedicated government teacher of Churachandpur District, was thinking of when we had our last discussions two months ago).

Fifth Thought:

'Educaton Districts' (EDs)
Orissa has 75 'education districts'. Why can't we have 9? Nine only that could bring in the sea-change we need so desperately. However, as Orissa is Orissa and Manipur is Manipur, we can tune our EDs somewhat differently.

* (Aha, aha! A word of caution abut the abuse of 'differently': We must refrain from pulling the rug from under our feet, through clever inserts like the Sixth Schedule's nemesis, the infamous "local adjustment". Or, today, after 20 years (!!), by empowering our elected District Council Members to become glorified collectors of electric fees (and i feel shy to mention their other 'powers'). These young political novices have been boosted by the 'uncontested' badge and are now being lulled by the tried and tested 'mithai' trick, in the form of ignition keys to silky SUVs from smugly beaming old wily politicians).

* Simply put, to me the term 'Education Districts' suggests ultimate decentralization and downsizing - from sea to lake to pond. Once small and manageable we can, at last, hope to see the death of some evils that poison education in our state. We could have: No 'overlapping'. No 'transfers'. No 'political' or 'bureaucratic' interference, and so on. There would, instead, be a good chance of auto-response, auto-repair and auto-rationalization, for better education for our district's children/ students. We would also have almost immediate, accurate and transparent MGEL, and salaries could be credited directly into a teacher's individual bank account … all in black and white, just a click away, and all in the public domain. Decentralization and de-mystification is surely too good to be true. But what the heck, it is a new idea and perhaps its time has come.

Sixth Thought:

The next obvious thought is that each Education District must have its very own District Education Core Committee (DECC), comprising of the District's home-grown, home-focused-world-conscious 'think tank' made up of its own educationists and concerned inhabitants. Meaning, actual stake-holders. The DECC should have the Deputy Commissioner as its Chairperson and the senior-most college Principal and the ZEO (Schools) as Co-Secretaries and so on. A District's education – everything – would fall on the shoulders of this Committee and the Sub-Committees it empowers.

A word of caution: It would be ideal for all Imphal-centric politicians (including our MLAs) to voluntarily leave their District's education to the real and immediate stake-holders, in the care of the DECC. The real and immediate stakeholders would, this time round, include the elected MDC Members of the Hills (or Panchayat Members in the Valley), till they prove otherwise.

NOTE:

1. The exclusion of MLAs - requested with folded hands - is strictly based on the fact that under their 38 years old post-1972 dispensation, 'education in Manipur' has fallen into despair's deepest pits! And all they have been doing is, every once in a while, appoint thousands of teachers who, by and large don't teach, proving, (as humorously put by Dr. Dallian Haokip of Blue Star Academy, Churachandpur, during a Seminar organized by the 27 Sector, Assam Rifles on 12 May, 2010, that the government thinks that their job/ role in education starts and ends with 'appointment' of teachers!

2. The inclusion of MDC/Panchayat Members is suggested as it is hoped and expected they will truly care to raise education at the grassroots level, viz. in the villages, including the remotest. Faith in them is reposed because they ought to be living in the District and not at Imphal, the home of our MLAs. If, however, they too follow the footsteps of our MLAs, then they too should be approached, with folded hands, and asked to step back and let the DECC and the other stockholders (only) take up the dynamic and exciting challenges thrown up by the RTE.

Seventh Thought:

Smaller and Smaller Plans:
The real and immediate stake-holders can start their small, smart and achievable plans by-
The DECC drawing up their District's not over-ambitious VISION-2020. This Vision must be district-in-the-context-of-the-demands-of-the-global-village-specific. It must be realistic yet bold enough to ensure that the district's public and private endeavours are co-joined, or married by arrangement and consent. That they walk and strive together, walking hand-in-hand … public, private and Mission/ Church schools (and colleges), all walking to and fro from the remotest village to the district HQ and back. Notably, the Vision must be the District's own. Importantly, everything must be put in the public domain.

Making a very detailed and frank mapping and collection of relevant statistics of all educational institutions of the District – private, mission, public … all … and putting such information in the public domain. With such a data base and actual visits-cum-inspection, the selection of centres of learning (that would necessitate closures, re-location, clubbing etc. can be apportioned.

(c) This is the critical part : Plan, budget; Budget, plan … by working on the basis that all funds for anything and everything to do with Education, from all sources—Central and State—are to be put at the disposal of the respective DECCs. Not Imphal's! Imphal should only disperse funds and wait for utilization certificates, which they should monitor/inspect. This allocation of funds includes SSA funds. All this, again, must be put (and constantly up-dated) in the public domain. Logic : If there is nothing to hide, why should we see shadows?

(d) A series of massive extensive and intensive awareness campaigns must explain the District's Vision to its (the District) people, so that the old-vested-interest-resistance to things like closure of a village or veng/ leikai school, its abolition or downsizing the number of schools, clubbing some schools/colleges with re-locations etc are not only accepted, but encouraged … so as to make 'quality education' a district and village reality! The guiding principle being : the immediate stakeholders know best the real lay of the land, so let them be on the front seat telling the driver where to go.

The main thing is that small is easy to plan, implement, monitor and modify/change if the need arises. If the above suggestions are accepted, it would be the beginning of real decentralization and empowerment to benefit the real grassroots.

Eighth Thought : On 'brain drain'

'Brain drain' too takes place in the districts, with good students leaving villages to come to private schools in the HQ or to Imphal or Shillong or Delhi and so on. And trained Government teachers working in private schools or running private tutorial centres far away from their place of posting and so on. The DECC should evolve strategies not only to retain but attract the best of students and teachers, and facilities inside their own Districts and right into the villages, where India, nay Churachandpur too lives. So down the ladder, or in the smallest pond, should begin the strengthening to make remote and marginalized villages vital cogs.

How could one reverse the drainage? It is suggested that a small start could be made by having a system of 'Voluntary Exchange Teacher Scheme' from HQ to outlying and remote villages, and vice versa. This exchange would have to include private/church school teachers and government ones exchanging. Because … because there is so much to learn from one another. The Catholic and a few Church/Mission schools that have a network (doesn't matter if it is small) could start straightaway.

Like Don Bosco, Churachandpur could send 2-3 to DB/Thanlon who in turn would send 2-3. Or, Ebenezar Academy, New Lamka could exchange with its church school at Singzawl deep on the Guite Road. And under the DECC the Catholics could go to EBC, RPC to Salvation Army, EFCI to NEIGM etc, etc. Easier said than done. But the new was never easy! Looking at the brighter side, just multiply that and one could go to seventh heaven with the possibilities. And one day, "Elementary, my dear" could be a reality! Wow!

The overall aim is capacity building, capacity building and capacity building. Through the untried sharing, partnering, innovating, with everything by example. We'd then evolve/progress to inter-district exchange of teacher and taught for one whole, or more, academic year. Brain drain would be checked. In its place there'd be 'brain circulation'!

Ninth Thought : A Few Nitty Gritties

The Sub-Committees of the DECC would fan out into the District to build a concensus on issues/matters like—

(i) A Common Academic Calendar tailored to suit the place and its own 'distrizens'. Of course, the Academic Calendar shall keep in mind the Examination Calendar of the Board of Secondary Education, Manipur, the Council for Higher Secondary Education, Manipur and Manipur University.

(ii) Flexible Working hours within the District, to cater to all walks of life and customs in the District.

(iii) School and College life should be full of Competitions that must be played on a level playing field, with maximum participation. (i insert this because this year, for the first time, courtesy a dream Deputy Commissioner, a district-wide series of inter-school competitions were held. Many schools could not participate because one had exams, the other was about to start it, and another had just started their holidays with the teachers busy with corrections … Under the DECC some sort of basic uniformity could be worked out. And thousands of students in every District could get a chance at developing life skills etc. Of course, detractors would say, fund problems. They are the problem, not funds. Rest assured, with sincerity there'd be more than enough!

End Thought :

Everything is easier said than done. Yet nothing is impossible, if we are serious about wanting change. A truism (or silly-ism) is: change cannot come without changing. But changing does not mean transferring and posting the same people around to do the same old things in the same old way. Actually changing would show us the future is not out there but right here, for us to take into our hands. Now. And there'd be no need for my Tenth etc. Thoughts. However, there's a need to end with the words of Mahatma Gandhi—

"We must become the change we wish to see in the world".

As we are talking about Manipur, a very very small State, it ought not to be that difficult! Let's give it a shot. Straight, not a round.

concluded....




* T Vunglallian wrote the article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on October 26 2010.


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