E-Pao! Feature - Tribal education in Manipur

Tribal Education in Manipur

By: Ngamkhohao Haokip *

Every social groups have their own interest to bellows and claims for, even sometimes counter claims for social fair dealing and educational rights by the people, and therefore our generation can rightly be called as claim-generation for a simple reason that every individuals, groups, and tribes or communities, have several claims to make. Claims and assertion by and for particular social groups or by all such social groups are indeed encouraging and they are politically a part of meaningful awakening in a country like ours that is the largest and may be, sometime in the near future, the greatest developed democratic country.

It is fundamental in governance of the country and is the duty of the state to direct its policy in such a manner as to make effective provision for securing the right to education for children up to the age of 14; and to promote educational interest of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe. The Constitution's Eighty Sixth Amendment Act 2002 has brought free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years into the realm of fundamental rights under a new article- Article 21 A: 'Right to Education'. This is a benchmark strive of India to bringing up its tenure citizen who can able to read and write.

Moreover the fundamental rights that relates to the education of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes that can be read with the directive principles of state policy mentioned above is also Article 30 (1), which envisages that minority section of the citizens can conserve their... 'language or script'. Clause (1) of Art 30 also implies that the state has the power to determine the medium of instruction if such power does not infringe the right of a minority community to impart instruction in their own language. The most important insertion in the records of our constitution in this subject matter is that of article 46.

It states: "The State shall promote, with 'special care', the education and economic interest of the weaker section of the people, and, in particular of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and shall protect them from social injustices and all form of social exploitation." It is glaringly comprehensible that Articles 330, 332, 335, 338 to 342 and the entire Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution deal with special provisions for implementation of the objectives set forth in Article 46.

If the Union Government in the Centre and the State Government are serious to solve the current socio-economic and political problems of most of the tribes in Manipur, they could have translated these provisions into action in letter and spirit. More important is the fact that it is never too late to start at this earnest opportunity. The State Government of Manipur has taken up a few commendable steps to recuperating education of the tribes of our State.

Nevertheless, how much such rights, provisions and directives contain in the Constitution of India for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have been concretised in Manipur is held in reserve for anyone's computation. But the Government also ought to see into the future social feasibility and lasting good while taking not only such decisions carrying the translations of rights so claimed but also while fulfilling the aspirations of the people. Social justice and education can be a good other half and companion as long as it's translated significance are meant for a common importance and lasting social synchronization.

The education system in Manipur with its entailing fact like the introduction of vernaculars subjects of almost all the tribes and communities is hard to think of as hard-earned achievements. This introduction of vernacular subjects in schools of the State is purely in fulfilment of the 'Three-Language Formula' following the expressed view of the Secondary Education commission in 1952-53 and as devised by the Central Advisory Board of Education in 1956 and again as subsequently modified by the Kothari Education Commission.

This 'Three-language-Formula' is only the outcome of the apparently imposition of Hindi language as the national language. The southern States have no objection in Hindi being the National language but opposed tooth and nail on the imposition of Hindi learning. Thus came the three-language formula to solve language problem in independent India. Thus, this introduction of three-language formula, especially in the context of Manipur, has nothing to accomplish in the development of tribal dialects and cultures.

As long as it does not cater holistically to an approach of formulating and creativeness of tribal dialects to suit the needs in bringing about changes in the retention and understanding aptitude of the tribal learners by way of introducing novel approaches and methods, no much remarkable achievement would be seen in the education system of the tribes. For example, the Government can rather bolster tribal scholars through an institutionalised system to work in research and production of books in our mother tongues that are badly needed like, to name a few, definitional dictionaries and terminologies in different disciplines written in tribal dialects in order to equip the learners with better understanding of subjects like mathematics, sciences etc.

Without much hectic social and political bargaining, such a department or an institute can be magically put in place provided our State Government is serious about solving socio-political problems, including education of the tribal.

In view of the rich ethnic cultural heritage and diversity of languages in the northeast, special pac-kages of grant under Non Lapsable Central pool of resources have been sanctioned year after year. Nevertheless, sadly, a little of these resources are actually spent for the advantage of tribes' education backwardness.

In the present standard of learning of mother tongue, I find a little good quality if the Government's concern is to somehow change the perceptive attitudes of these tribes on the subjects of various disciplines. There is no span of knowledge for improving the educational backwardness of them in such endeavour.

Again, putting the present trend and pattern of such introduction in to reflection, it has become something like an old story that goes into a hoary trail. It is too far yet to gauge it as a stroke to bridge the gap of educational backwardness of the tribes with that of another section of the society. If we subscribe that using mother tongue is the best medium of instruction; and as text books by considering it and at the same time it is the best means of imparting quality education, something further steps need to be taken.

We are talking about quality education through process of one's mother tongue.

Then how much quality education is expected of our present trend of importance given to inferior educational group of people? The State is, to a greater extend, responsible for changing the old life pattern into modernization of the so-called tribal. In and through those simple importance the government is giving attention to this group of people, there could hardly be any fulfilment of objectives of education like - Increasing productivity; Social and National integration; Accelerating the process of modernization, and lastly, Developing social, moral and spiritual values. In those tribal subjects of today in Manipur, there might be just a little tinge of realization of only the last objective in doubtful calculation.

We need to understand the rational as to why there is tribal reservation in employment and educational institutions. It is believed that this came about firstly because tribals lack the perceptive capability of things taught. By their long absence in the domination of modernization and development, the minds have become dormant thereby causing in them a dominant retardation of intelligence in their understanding of things there, which are beyond their vision. In this situation, they could not go along with the people who had seen development earlier than the so-called tribal had.

Secondly, both the State and Union Government do not really want to give to the tribes in India, in general, and those of Manipur in particular, the knowledge required to catching fish save for providing us only one-fourth of our day to day need. Is introduction of tribal dialects in schools the beginning of such changes the Government wants to effect in the educational system of the tribes? If it is so, we wish it went well. If not, tribal problems in economic, social and political shall continue to alloy with problems of all on the whole that will be costly in terms of their solutions.

However, another questionable thing is kept suspending in the air. After more than fifty years of freedom from repression, the Government is putting a section of that freed people in dungeon without letting them see the light of the day. Simply knowing that the education of its citizens is one of the yardsticks to measure the development of a country and thereby enacting a numbers of laws to that effect will help the educationally backward tribes a little unless accompanied by actions in the right perspective?

How long India chooses to remain in the back stage of world standard. Also to put very straight, the State as well as the Union Government have done nothing-commendable service to the tribal, especially, of Manipur as far as their educational backwardness is concerned. The tribal research wing Department of tribal development can be made use of in the contour opined here. It shall be a very good thing to upgrade the Tribal Research Wing of Tribal Development Department of Manipur into a fully functional Tribal Research Institute/Institute of Tribal language. Most of our sister States in north east have moved ahead of our state in this matter.

Manipur being a unique mixture of tribes and languages shall be befitting place to have an exclusive social and political approach in solving its varied interest.

Unless an institute of learning and research that should specifically indenture with the socio-economic and political problems of them is established, it shall be a blunt mistake giving way to persistency of problems. As already pointed out before, many educated tribal youths, who are frustrated and hopeless due to absence of employment opportunities, can be given not only meaningful employment but also productive work in such institute.

The institute shall be a research institute engaging in works that are to produce educational books in tribal dialects. Such tribal institute should also be entrusted to find significant ways of augmenting the competency of tribal learners to open the cosset of their lack of knowledge and thus leap up from it into the world of development and edifying freedom.

Why an educational endeavour with little prospect in terms of its achievability in the common competitive world should be pursued and precious time and husbanded exchequer should be diminished, it is not because of the fact that such a venture should be kept in abeyance but it is rather because it fails to address the mainstay of the required.

Parents, educationists or academicians and alike institutions have been working and discoursing since the later part of the 20th century in India on the paramount importance of choosing the right streams or subject for students of the present generation that could be readily suitable in the present cutthroat world or novel level of education credence.

Be that as it may, our mother-tongue-instruction and textbooks are thus far unable to afford us any of our educational objective. So, we are emphasizing on the point of what fruitful result our first language textbooks that are introduced in schools of Manipur can equip us with. In the competitive sphere as well as in our struggle to survive in the changing economic structure we are neither enlighten nor given the expertise by our mother tongue text books. It is not about being critical of the general significance of First languages-tribal textbooks.

Some of the first tribal dialects introduced by the State Government in school curriculum and syllabus in the 1950s were Thadou, Tangkhul, Paite, Hmar and Mao. These dialects were studied initially only up to class V. In later stages, these subjects were again introduced into class IX and X under Board of Secondary Education, Manipur. Some of them earned 100 marks while some carried only 50 marks, depending on the requisite standard and norms expected of each textbook. Since then, all other tribes in one way or the other have been trying to have the same social and educational privileges.

Such tribes who are still on the limit of justice may be politically, and more importantly, socially, feeling neglected and that they could be thus on the trot to grasp the opportunity. Very recently, the state government accorded new recognition to some tribal dialects and that are indeed a welcome state. Moreover, some have earned a niche in the University. In an order dated 22nd March 1977, the education department notified that the medium of instruction in primary schools having 90% of pupils on its rolls belonging to any of the tribes Viz. Tangkhul, Thadou, Paite, Hmar, and Lushei, within the State of Manipur shall be the respective tribal dialects with effect from the current academic session, i.e. 1977.

Undoubtedly, there must be certain such norm and guidelines of the Board of Secondary Education under which tribal dialects should be taught in recognised schools of Manipur, especially in Classes IX & X. In case of the medium of instruction being that of the dialect of the 90% constituent, it is vividly understood that the interest and rights of the remaining 10% has to be sacrificed at the altar of the larger interest of the majority. On the other hand, this 10% constituent either has to go with the majority or opts out of that social class-group under what is called compelling situation. It is here wherein experts, Government agencies, and policy makers should empty m their wisdom and resonance so that education and justice is not a cause of its own destruction.

Secondly, our young learners always have the inclination to think that studying the books of their own dialect, especially in Class IX & X as of now, is something out of choice. They are not certainly aware of the fact that offering such textbooks as the first language subject is neither under compulsion or of good prospect as far as their future career is concern. They would basically opted it simply on the ground that it is scoring that can fetch them high marks to pass out in good division.

For a time, schools do also have the tendency to arrange a particular dialect-text book to be offered by its students in devoid of rooms for choice and change. The logic follows in such situation is the democratic principle of 'majority' and '90%'. Under such prevailing situation, schools and teachers have easier-said- than-done time. There are schools where many and different tribes studied together. In such school, it is an annoyance for the school authorities to arrange teachers required to teach all the dialect subjects.

Moreover, should only a particular dialect-subject be arranged, would not it be a breech of rights of the rest of the tribal students studying in that school? The alternative one may move forwards in this circumstance is to make the rest of the students offer Additional English and Alternative English, as is in the present practice. Then the students still have the rights to demand for the introduction of such First Language-tribal dialects that may undoubtedly override the standing rules and regulations of our schools.

In such ambiguous situation, another thrilling fact that is undeniable in the end compounded the matter. Partition will be emerging, predominantly in primary and lower secondary educational institutions on lines of tribes and communities which shall be the counter-productive educational fruition effecting not only our education system but also education itself as a means of spreading social harmony.

Moreover, the meaning of social harmony and national integration as a cherish goal of our education will be slowly but surely fading out. Out of love and attachment to one's dialect/language, seeking admission in school that offers subjects of their choice becomes very important.

Prof. Humayun Kabir has defined Education as a "dynamic process, which in its totality changes with the changing situations and developing circumstances."

* Ngamkhohao Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 09th, 2006

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