New Dawn For School Education
- Part 1 -

H. Deleep / Ranjan Yumnam / W. Chandrakumar *

 Director of Education (University and Higher Education) Building in Imphal ; Photo taken sometime in March 2013
Director of Education (University and Higher Education) Building in Imphal ; Photo taken sometime in March 2013 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam

We are not writing this article to airbrush the failures of the Department of Education(S). Indeed, it is a candid expression of what we assess as the current reality of the Department and our own conviction to turn it around. Second, we recognised the utter lack of PR effort from the side of the Department to feel the pulse of the public and reach out to communicate the challenges that we face at the field level and to spell out the vision of this Department. Our endeavour will be: Old blunders must be fixed; new blunders must be nixed.

Negative perception

Notwithstanding what we say and what we will do, Education(S) Department will invariably evoke a mix of strong feelings and associations in the minds of the people for some time to come. The negative perception about the Department is so deep-rooted that few would be singing paeans in praise of the Department-not anytime soon. Whatever the failings of the Department committed over the decades, either by design or compulsion, fact remains that it is one Department we can't live without. We may hate it and but can we ignore it? That's why it is so important to rejuvenate the Department and set things right in everyone's interest.

Whether we have a high or low opinion of the Department, we all are affected by this Department. A better way to capture this sentiment (and to take inspiration from a popular ad slogan) is to say "there is a little bit of Education Department in everybody's life". This Department touches the lives of so many people of the State at a deeply intimate and emotional level. We are aware that teachers who work in a school in the interior part of a hill district is also someone's father, brother, daughter, wife or sister who are not only trying to earn a livelihood but are giving their best to serve the society at large.

Admitting the lapses

It is worth asking: What has the Department done for them? Not much. Instead, their salaries are not released in time due to fund constraints; their pay and allowances are not revised regularly; their promotions are held up; their EINs cannot be allotted due to shortage of posts and vacancies, and the list goes on.

Here's the deal: the authors admit the lapses of the Department and we offer no defense for the indefensible systemic failure that has made the teachers community feel neglected and frustrated.

Size does matter

Part of the problem lies in the size of the Department. The Department has the distinction of having the largest number of employees, second only to Home Department-and therein lies the rub. Despite our best efforts, the Department has not been able to determine the actual number of serving employees at any given point of time.

What's more; it is still splitting its hair trying to get the number of schools right! As laughable as it is, the truth is biting.

As you see, the nature of problems faced by the Department is fundamental. When we were given the responsibility of overhauling the Department, the historical baggage seemed too great to surmount. Not because we were lacking in commitment, expertise or unity, but the breadth and scale of reforms that need to be introduced was astounding.

No database

Another bottleneck which took us by surprise was the lack of a reliable database in the Department. Want to know how many Headmasters there are in the schools? There is no accurate information. Want to know when is the academic session of a particular school starting? No idea. Want to know when you will get the Trained Scale of Pay. Ditto.

Our hands are tied because without data, we are like surgeons in the operation theatre without the scalpels and gloves. As a result, we had to start everything from scratch in the manner of establishing a new Department and learning its ropes. Add to this the pressure to perform and show results from the government, the long suffering employees of the Department and last but not the least, from ourselves. Sometimes, the stress is too much to bear and there were times when we wavered like as all human beings do and wanted to throw in the towel.

Weight of litigation

But wait, this is just the beginning of our anxiety. A worthy person once said no one can escape death and taxes in life. If you are an administrator in the Education Department, you won't be able to escape the onslaught of court cases/litigations. Dealing with court cases and disposing yellow coloured files is a major part of our daily office work. The crux of the litigations is mostly similar and they stem from few wrongful acts of commission and omission made by the Department in the past. The contempt cases against the Department act like a permanent Damocles' Swords hanging over our heads.

Problems diagnosed

To cut the story short, after much brainstorming among us, we have been able to categorise the problems of the Department into the following broad categories.
(a) Unresolved issues relating to service matters of the employees, such as promotions, grant of senior scales, selection grade scales etc.
(b) Poor educational infrastructure-leaking roof, water logging, lack of classrooms, hostels, teachers' accommodation, etc.
(c) Lack of fund to introduce innovations in teaching, learning and administration
(d) Shortage of fund to pay salaries of the employees in time.

The road ahead

What is the way out of the abyss that the Education Department finds itself in? There are no easy answers, nor is there a miracle button to press to cure the sickness. What we know is that we must have a vision.

On 22nd September, 2012, all ZEOs and functionaries of the Directorate of Education(S) gathered in its Conference Hall at Lamphelpat to search for that elusive vision, which we all could swear by. As the participants began to trickle in, it was palpable that an atmosphere of cynicism filled the Conference Hall. No one trusts anyone to revive the education sector. But surprisingly as the brainstorming session commenced, the mood began to lift and the fog of uncertainty gave way to a flicker of hope. At the end of that day-long brainstorming session, Education Department had redefined its vision.

"To deliver quality education by streamlining administration and continuously improving pedagogical skills of the teachers to produce students who would go on to become good citizens having well-rounded personality for building a healthy and dynamic society".

It is easier said than done. We had to divide the lofty vision into smaller deliverables. Accordingly, we developed a checklist of priorities and reordered all our action-plan to align with the short-term goals.

Ongoing missions

The remarkable thing about Education Department is that there is never a slack season. Even routine matters overwhelm us, if not attended to for a day or two. In the midst of this, finding time and commitment to accomplish important works is a great challenge of maneuvering trade-offs. There is always a possibility of the urgent taking precedence over the ground-breaking constructive matters of policy. The solution is to consciously set aside quality time for important issues.

Presently, the Department is focusing on addressing the grievances of the employees related to service matters. Various DPCs have been held and more are in the offing for many categories of posts. Most recently, 1 06 lecturers were appointed on contract basis for the recently upgraded Hr. Secondary Schools.

DPCs have also been conducted through MPSC in February, 2013 and the Deptt. filled up the following posts:
i. Vigyan Mandir Officer 1 (one) post.
ii. Asstt. Head Master(H/S) 106 (one hundred and six) posts.
iii. Head Master/Jr,. H/S 64 (Sixty-four) posts
iv. Principal of Govt. Hr. Sec. Schools 10 (ten) posts.

The effort that went into making the above DPCs happen was nothing compared to our unalloyed happiness at seeing the smiles on the face of those teachers who had finally got their longstanding due.

Yes, we were elated at this modicum of an achievement and we held our head high, but not for long. There were miles to go and one swallow doesn't make a summer. We were determined to keep the momentum going and break similar news to other employees due for promotion over many years. To do so, it was essential that final seniority lists of the various class of employees are notified.

To be continued..

* This article is Co-authored by:
* H. Deleep Singh, IAS
Director of Education(S), Govt, of Manipur
* Ranjan Yumnam, MCS
Addl. Director (Valley), Education(S), Govt, of Manipur
* W. Chandrakumar Singh, MCS
Addl. Director (Hill), Education(S), Govt, of Manipur
The article was published by DIPR, Manipur Govt, on the eve of Indian Independence Day , August 15 2013
This article was posted on August 19, 2013.

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