Sainik Schools under foster care - The ironic truth

Samarjit Kambam *

It is a known fact that Sainik School Imphal is one of the premier educational institutes, a cut above the rest in the North East Region and the state of Manipur in particular. The students of the school get admitted after going through a tough written exam and interview followed by a medical test. So far, the school has produced many defence officers and responsible citizens in other coveted walks of life.

The students of the school walk in with dreamy eyes as kids and walk out as well-groomed gentlemen after their schooling. This is what sets apart Sainik School Imphal from other schools. Every product of the school has been moulded for all-round personality development apart from academics by engaging them in various co-curricular, extra-curricular, games & sports, PT, NCC etc., on a daily basis as well as motivational tours to various military establishments throughout India.

Sainik School Imphal is a residential English medium school for boys imparting Public School education coupled with military aptitude. The school was initially started in the war sheds near Tulihal airport on 07 Oct 1971. Subsequently, it was shifted to its present location on 05 Mar 1974.

The school exhibits a live example of national integration, as it admits students representing the two North Eastern states of Manipur and Tripura as well as from neighbouring friendly country Royal Bhutan as per the laid down quota and reservation policy in vogue. The state of Manipur being the home state is responsible for building and maintenance of all capital assets by providing Annual/Capital Grants to the school from time to time.

In order to have an overall administrative control and effective supervision over the School, there is a Local Board of Administration (LBA) in place under the Chairmanship of GOC 57 Mtn Div. The LBA meets at regular intervals to review the working of the school, to consider and recommend its Annual Budget for approval of the Board of Governors, and to carry out measures considered necessary for the overall improvement of the school. GOC 57 Mtn Div can be termed as Local Guardian of the school.

Three defence service officers are posted for a tenure of two/three years to SS Imphal comprising officers from Army/Navy/Airforce as Principal, Vice Principal and Adm Officer. The rank of the Principal is Colonel/Group Captain/Capt (IN), for Vice Principal it is Lt Col/Wg Cdr/Lt Cdr and Adm Officer is Major/Sqn Ldr/Lt Cdr. The three service officers are the three main pillars in the functioning of the school.

The Adm Officer looks after administration, the Vice-Principal looks after all academic and training activities of the students and Principal is the overall decision maker. JCO & NCO defence personnel are also posted to SSI to impart discipline, physical training, NCC activities and other extra-curricular activities to the cadets.

The defence officers and other defence personnel matters most for they play a great role in making the school a military biased and defence-oriented one, setting apart from other schools by honing the students in all round personality development apart from academics thereby making the students responsible members of the society in different walks of life apart from making them defence officers in the armed forces as well as to remove regional imbalance in the officer cadre of the defence services.

Sainik School Imphal was established under the Society's Registration Act of XXI of 1860. Many are of the view that Sainik Schools are totally funded by Ministry of Defence with the funding covering all aspects such as infrastructure, scholarship of students, training facilities etc. The ironic truth is that Sainik Schools were established with a barrel-full of complications.

At the time of their inception, it was agreed upon that all infrastructure and scholarship of the school be borne by the State Government of the respective state. Ministry of Defence only sanctions a small percentage of scholarship and grant-in-aid as additional liability. Sainik School Imphal is no exception.

Presently, the school is in heavy debt. Due to lack of funding from the State Govt, the parents have to bear the brunt of the tuition fees and to keep the school running, the tuition fees have to be hiked periodically thereby giving a huge financial crunch to the parents. Here it is pertinent to mention that the school faculty and its employees are getting their salary from the tuition fees, just like a private school, even though they are categorised as Central Govt employees.

To clear more doubts, SS Imphal, though under the ageis of Ministry of Defence(MoD), functions directly under Sainik Schools Society, an autonomous body. So, there is no direct link with SS Imphal and MoD, everything goes through SSS thereby creating wastage of time, resource and red tapism. The Navodaya Vidyalayas are also under the "Navodaya Vidyalaya Samitee" which acts as their ruling body.

But the funding is directly from Ministry of Human Resource Development(HRD). As a result, many children who are talented are not able to study in SS Imphal due to paucity of fund which implies that SS Imphal is meant for children of opulent parents. The notion of SSI as imparting public school education thereby runs divergent.

The service officers who are posted to this school to inculcate military aptitude to the students usually have to go the extra mile by running from pillar to post at state government departments to derive fund for infrastructure development, modernisation and proper training facilities of the school. Running at the political corridor is a task which is quite alien to the service officers for it is not in their charter of duties, nor were they trained in that particular aspect.

So, the officers find themselves in a dilemma as they have to hone the cadets in terms of discipline, officer like qualities, holistic approach towards life alongwith a military bias as well as to go with begging bowls to various departments of state government for funds for the fund-starved school.

It is therefore, requested that the incumbent Hon'ble Chief Minister look into these vital areas and take up favourable steps for Sainik School Imphal. The proposed steps are: -

(a) A separate budget head for Sainik School Imphal.
(b) Routine check-ups on infrastructure by Min of Education.
(c) Determination on the part of State Government to make Sainik School Imphal one of the best schools in the country which will be the pride of the state.

The school administration has a firm resolve to leave no stone unturned to keep the school flag flying high. The school's endeavour is to put in its best efforts to maintain the status of the school as a Centre of Excellence and become the best NDA feeder institution in the country as well as inculcate the spirit of humanism, all round personality development and patriotic fervor amongst the cadets.

However, in terms of infrastructure, SS Imphal is way behind, even from some private schools of the state. Despite all odds, the staff comprising of academic & administrative as well as general employees come out from their comfort zone and carry out their duties 24 x 7 for the welfare of cadets so that the aim of the school is not compromised.

The teachers provide an atmosphere for discovery, where students are encouraged to be creative and curious by bringing out the latent sparks in them into a blaze. They constantly keep on improvising with their teaching methodology to make learning fun and enjoyable by adopting scientific approaches.

For other Sainik Schools of India whose state governments are opulent, fundings are poured liberally upon them. Such schools have no constraints in development of infrastructure and scholarship for students. But for Sainik School Imphal where the state government is economically unsound, the school is facing the music of constraints of funds which poses a big hurdle in infrastructure, training and other allied activities of the students.

Despite all odds, the school has managed and sustained to bring at par with other public schools of the country. My humble appeal goes to The Parents' Association also to push the State Government for regular grant-in-aids or a separate Budget Head for Sainik School Imphal. The alumni association of the school also need to take their part collectively for their alma mater so that financial crunch of the school doesn't take place.

Both the associations can also pursue from the political arena for direct funding from MoD just like Rashtriya Military Schools. That way, burden of the parents will be lessened and the poor but talented kids can avail the opportunity to have their schooling in Sainik School Imphal. Such gestures will go a long way in upholding the legacy of the school.

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on February 12 , 2018.

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