TODAY -

Why minority schools always a soft target?

Ceety Khongsai *

A file picture of Nirmalabas School Imphal
A file picture of Nirmalabas School Imphal



History is a testimony to the fact that the Catholic Mission Schools in Manipur has had the distinction of being the largest providers of our present day administrators, politicians, academicians and civil society leaders, past and present, and irrefutably surpassed all other educational institutions in imparting 'quality education' to the budding minds and moulded the academic lives of hundreds and thousands of students.

The twelve-monthly serpentine queues of aspiring guardians in front of the Mission's School gates to get a copy of admission form and the accompanying joy of those family whose wards luckily succeeds in the new formula of 'draw of lots' school admissions subjectively enforced on these Mission Schools by some self-styled champions of education testifies the excellent academic performance of these schools. In a state like Manipur where government schools literally are dysfunctional and practically non-existent, the Mission Schools with a humane face voluntarily took up the onus responsibility of building a new Manipuri society.

It is an undeniable fact that the Mission Schools were and is still and will undoubtedly be always the vanguard of our educational institutions and stood tall among the galaxies of non-mission schools. If the past academic records of these Mission Schools were oblivious to reckon with by the new Manipuri generation, time will unfailingly show the worthiness of these Mission Schools and silenced all sycophants whenever results of BOSEM's HSLC Exams come out.

Substantiating this fact, for instance, a rickshaw puller or a cobbler in a miniature Imphal city will always dream and offered prayers for getting his daughter admitted in the Nirmalabas School while an influential politician in Manipur will not hesitate to flex all his political power to get a seat in St. Joseph's School for his son! If such is the degree of grading these Mission Schools, then, why is the off-and-on boycott or ban on these institutions? Flimsy, illogical and fictional reasons invented with sinister motives to justify this spiteful bans are insufficient to persuade the vigilant public mind because such a ban has long lasting negative impact on the academic career of future generations.

In an academic journey of a student time is priceless and nothing can compensate the lost of even a single day. In Manipur, however, in the name of bringing quality education, everyone becomes a teacher inasmuch as everybody can give lecture and dictate terms on quality education although one may have the least ideas of what quality education really is. It may be remember by one and all that education is the realm of teachers and, as such, drop-out students and minimally literate politicians should not pretend to become ideal teachers by making blind hit or giving guess lectures on education because such act of pretension is insulting the teaching community.

This cheap method of extracting one's own selfish motives through ban/boycott on schools hitherto exploited by education champions in reality victimize our children whereas the hapless parents are forced to fritters away tearfully with their hard earned money in paying ban holiday tuition fees as the existing ban culture has no provision to waive the off-days school fees. In a comical way, this senseless culture of bans and boycotts resorted to by innumerable organisations has become a boon for both the school management and school van drivers because even a month long or more days of ban would not deter the school authority from happily collecting tuition fees as if given to them as earned leave salary while the school van drivers jovially fatten their wallets collecting van fees of those off-steering days as if a manna from above! But the greatest losers are the students and the guardians.

The reason for the 'bomb gift' to the Mission Schools and the ban may or may not be right but sabotaging the peaceful academic environment of the students is unjustifiable, unacceptable and academically suicidal. Imposition of dictates after dictates, demands after demands and bans after bans to these Mission Schools by numerous organisations with malicious intention deride the fundamental rights and freedom of education envisage in the constitution of India.

And, it is discriminatory as well as against the secular principle of tolerance for the entire Christian community that out of the many schools functioning in the state only the Mission Schools are being targeted time and again while other schools are left free to decide their own admission norms, tuition fees etc. It is prudent to note the fact that ethnic heterogeneity and multi-religiosity is the chief characteristic of Manipuri society and a slightest mismanagement and miscalculation of this fragile composite nature of our society could aflame the fire of ethnic animosity and imperil our state.

If 'Our Father', the morning blessing prayer of these Mission Schools, is being construed as indoctrination to Christian faith, then, the 'Namaste Guruji' or 'Good Morning Guru' salutation as practised in non-mission schools can aptly be read as an outright onslaught on our indigenous culture or an attempt to anglicize and hinduize the native students towards alien culture.

Or, if 'Catechism', a moral lesson taught in the Mission Schools as optional subject is the reason of clamping these schools, it may be remember that many of our present day juvenile crimes can be attributed to poor moral lessons in the formative stage of learning, to be more specific, during high school days. If we think and accept the universal moral principle of 'Obey your parents' as sacrosanct to the moral development of our children, there's nothing wrong in teaching the same moral principle in Catechism. As parents we are at liberty to withdraw our wards if one thinks that the moral upbringing of the Catholic Mission Schools is against one's religious doctrine or practices rather than victimising the whole student community.

The question of 15 percent quota for the poor family proposed by ban enforcers simply lacks pragmatic ideas and suffers from universalistic principles in so far as its implementation in non-mission schools are left at the sole discretion of the school authority concern. Besides, reservation primarily emanates from the question of majority community and minority communities with an objective of protecting the minorities from the so-called majority community.

Thus, the Mission Schools being Christian minority institutions, the demand of reservation quota by the majority community will turn the principle into a mockery. Moreover, if one takes into account the myriad ethnic groups or organisations nestling in the state it will be impractical to embark upon such a dream because the impending tug-of-war amongst the various ethnic groups for maximum percentage will turn the matter into a major political issue. And, if tuition fee is the reason, it will be a gross mistake to make the Mission Schools a scapegoat because there are many non-mission schools charging more fees than the Mission Schools.

The time has come for the collective Manipuri mind to give a serious thought on the matter and act promptly if we truly are sincere about the future of our students. It is also the bounden duty of the vote maximizing politicians to enact a law to ensure full protection of all education providers from all anti-social elements now and forever.


* Ceety Khongsai wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 24, 2015.


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