Time of reckoning :: On Teachers' Day 2013

Maisnam Bomcha *

Teacher's Day Celebration by Edn(S) Govt of Manipur :: September 05 2009
Teacher's Day Celebration by Edn(S) Govt of Manipur on September 05 2009

"In a few cases I know of, people who can just about 'teach' only at rudimentary levels are teaching in high schools. Teaching is not only about being familiar with the level one is expected to teach"

Today, 5 September, is certainly not a day to be despondent in negative thoughts. India should be celebrating in appreciation of the great contribution Teachers have made to the country and the society. From school going children to all who had learnt something from anyone; it's time to be saying a 'Thank You' and sparing a thought of gratitude to those who taught us; so aptly kept on the birthday of the great scholar and teacher, Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan.

Teachers' Day is celebrated in different countries on different days. World Teachers' Day is on 5 October. Teaching is still a noble profession and such days are still solemn. Most importantly people want to continue respecting teachers with the same measure. It is a sad state of affairs indeed when doing something natural becomes a wishful thinking when stark reality dictates otherwise.

The situation is truly unfortunate when the outcome of the ailments of the society makes revering an institution like teaching questionable. Corruption has maligned the true value of teachers in Manipur. The lofty position of teachers is a universally accepted fact and questioning it risks extreme vilification. But it's time to look into things objectively and face the facts.

Barring perhaps those selected through the MPSC and those nameless honest and able teachers; the selection of teachers in Manipur is among the muddiest, most corrupt. Corruption in selection of teachers is the most common gossip in Manipur when it comes to discussion on the sorry state of corruption during recruitment. Due to the size of vacancy, teacher recruitment, along with intake into the police is the area where the most widespread bribes are paid to get into government services.

The extent is so hopelessly pervasive that people have practically stopped aspiring to get selected on the basis of merit alone. There is a huge bazar of bidding the highest to ensure selection out there. The obvious fallout is in the calibre of the teachers and the overall standard of teachers in Manipur has left a lot to be desired.

In a few cases I know of, people who can just about 'teach' only at rudimentary levels are teaching in high schools. Teaching is not only about being familiar with the level one is expected to teach.

Sadly the noble profession has been reduced to being the last resort to getting a government job. The only exception in the poor quality of teachers in Manipur is in the private schools. Interestingly, private schools are a direct bi-product of the poor quality of the government run schools. Never before has Manipur seen such mushrooming of private schools as we have been witnessing during the last decade.

If opening of new private schools is being exploited as a business, the blame falls squarely on the government and corruption in our society. This and the trend of sending school going children outside, as well as the accompanying unhealthy competition are just a few of the horde of the adverse effects of the degrading standard of, mostly school teachers, in Manipur. The notion and implications of a 'bad' school is not as relevant or important as that of a 'bad' teacher. There is a comical irony in a sad truth in Manipur that when government funds and befitting salaries are given; things deteriorate.

Another really sad story related to schools in Manipur is the turning of hitherto respectably good private schools, comparable to even the best in the country in many ways; into dumping grounds of average students and teachers with abysmal standards, once they are converted into government schools.

In the absence of any accountability, teachers in government schools just while away the time. In any case nothing much can be expected from teachers whose only qualification while joining the noble profession is the capability to pay those hefty bribes. As if the rot is not complete, teachers who are posted in the hill and remote areas do not teach at all, leave alone the quality.

Even if the authorities claim ignorance, none would believe that our minister and bureaucrats in the education department are unaware that hundreds of teachers are sub-letting their job by sharing their salaries with others who teach in schools in their name. It would serve our education minister well to first arrest this particular rot than to attempt ambitious projects. Plain criticism is the last thing in mind when it's considered pertinent to mention, even with a little sense of duty, that a few private schools have been making it good business sense to manage unlikely good results in CBSC examinations, particularly in the 12 standard examinations.

Wrongs, with long term implications of harming the society; if murmurs are to be believed, should be corrected. The murmur in the grapevine is that there is a trend of ambitious parents shifting their children to a few selected schools, with unusually good record in results of board examinations, just before the exam dates are declared.

That so called Pygmalion Effect may lead to better marks, but how those students with better marks fare in the long run is something which calls for serious consideration. Corruption is now accepted as integral to our system. To join the bandwagon and to be corrupt or otherwise is no longer an option.

In the rare case of choosing not to accept bribes too, it is extremely difficult to move even simple things which otherwise are one's rights. Selective cleansing of the system is a wishful thinking. Allowing wrongs in a system except in selected areas considered sacrosanct will take an evolution tantamount to a new social contract which takes ages. But selected people with single minded dedication can do wonders to improve, if not wiping out all the dirt.

Transparent recruitment coupled with a long due streamlining of school education in particular, will attract deserving people who also actually aspire to be teachers: teachers who will strive to enrich their pedagogy. Plugging the entry and gradual phasing out of teachers who are even devoid of the morale compunctions of being really ashamed at committing those shameful acts of aiding students in copying in exams after years of habitual dereliction of their teaching duties, for a starter, may not hurt the society.

Teachers' Day is also hardly a day to be focussing solely on the virtues or otherwise of teachers. Notwithstanding individual capabilities, the exalted status of the profession is unquestionable. This column would be remiss if it fails to express gratitude and extend heartiest greetings to Teachers who are rightly given a status only next to God.

Happy Teachers' Day.

* Maisnam Bomcha wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao as part of "Different People, Different Places, Different Times"
This article was posted on September 05, 2013.

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