For Pettigrew College in Ukhrul : An appeal for a cause

Kakai Singsit *

Two visits to Pettigrew College, Ukhrul in the month of February, 2018 and again on the 6th September, 2019 goaded my thoughts that it is my social and moral responsibility that Pettigrew College, a college that bears the name of the man who brought the gospel of Christ to Manipur and who can also otherwise be attributed as the father of modern education for the State of Manipur, should be given the rejuvenation it was long waiting for and to render my support however insignificant it might be.

I don't belong to the Tangkhul tribe nor am I from Ukhrul district but I belong to a tribe rather alien and from a place far-off. Though I am just a small fry, poor, irrelevant and nondescript but the heart-rending conditions of the college shook the core of my foundation. So after much dithering I took out my pen and decided to reach out to any compassionate soul willing to listen to this cry in the wilderness.

I write with this strong conviction that the revival of Pettigrew College will have great and positive consequences in the upward mobility of the Tangkhul community especially the majority of the poor people who do not have the fortune to go places where there are good educational institutions and also in turn act as a catalyst in the economic as well as academic growth of the district itself.

I believe that this will not only alleviate the misery of the unfortunate poor but in turn ensure that affordable higher education is within the reach of everyone in the district and beyond.

Justice has been long denied to this luminary, Reverend William Pettigrew, who in 1896 came to Ukhrul with the conviction that Christianity and modern education are two strong forces that can propel the moral and social development of society. Due to his preoccupation with the construction of a mission bungalow, studying of the local dialect and translations works he could only open his first school on 10 February, 1897 with 24 boys.

It was his students who were responsible for the spread of Christianity to the farthest corners of Manipur hills and to the hinterlands of Myanmar. Not only did they act as missionaries but were also the vanguard of modern education.

It must be the result of his enormous and invaluable contributions to the people of Ukhrul district that the college was christened after his name, i.e. Rev. William Pettigrew. Then why we as good Christians should allow this hallowed institution to be in shambles ?

My intention is not to blame anyone nor fix responsibility for the present condition of the college but to churn and evoke the benign heart of all the people inhabiting Ukhrul district, particularly the Tangkhul community that you have collective responsibility- moral, social and personal for the betterment of this college. Therefore all stakeholders are urged to chip in for its development and transformation.

Ukhrul was once the epicentre of Christianity, modern education, morality, love, brotherhood and all the good virtues that Christianity accompanies. It had possessed a hallowed character that was envied, adored and yearned by one and all.

It started with a man and a school. But sadly that sheen has attenuated and gone. So let's start by giving a major face-lift to Pettigrew College and transform it into a centre of excellence. That progressive ideas start with educational institutions and that higher educational institutions are the epicentre, is something irrefutable.

Let us have a dream i.e. to walk at par with other contemporary colleges within and without Manipur. "Let us not go to Shillong but create Shillong here itself in Ukhrul". The success of this dream will have far reaching impact on the economy, prestige and societal growth of Ukhrul district. With this dream firmly etched in our collective consciousness it is incumbent on us to create an ambience conducive for learning.

Conducive ambience entails that public trust on the college should be reinforced. This can made possible by eradicating unfair means during examinations, strict implementation of academic calendars, enforcing regimented rules and regulations for both the students and teaching staffs, making the institution free from wanton interferences in the domain of administration and developmental works, freeing it from the clutches of encroachers, enhancing competitive spirit amongst the students with incentives for performing students.

Further there should be both qualitative and quantitative changes- qualitative in the sense that the college should strive hard in producing toppers and illustrious students who could be its torchbearers. Quality should precede quantity. Once the former is accomplished then only can it be guaranteed that the college will be choc-a-bloc.

Blaming the Government for all the ills of Government colleges and its decadence needs to be discouraged for we, the public are also equally culpable. It should also be kept in mind that the Education Department is plagued with shortages of funds and of employees. This is where we need to improvise and not to wait for the Government to act but act ourselves.

Waiting for the Government’s action was one reason for the near collapse of the college. From experiences that I have come across during many of my sojourns to the educational institutions within the hill districts is that- public participation is sine qua non to the development of any Government institution. And Churachandpur College is a living example.

CCpur College teeming with nearly 4000 students has beaten all its other contemporaries, in size and in quality. The quality of their students who had excelled in various Central or State services speaks volumes. It’s not the college but the zeal and participation of CCpurians which is the most potent reason behind the transformation of the college into veritable centre of excellence.

Ukhrulites should pick out a leaf or two, from them. The problems besieging Pettigrew College are legion but there are areas that need urgent attention. The shortage of transportation facilities (college bus) needs to be urgently addressed as the distant location of the college and the concomitant expenses of cab fares deter students from seeking admission or attending classes.

The renovation of the rickety old girls hostel will enable to accommodate another 150 girl students. The completion of the two new hostels, boys and girls, that are nearing completion will solve to a certain extent the accommodation problem. The shortage of classrooms, sanitation, staffs quarters are also seriously impeding the development of the college. And the list is endless.

On our part we have visited the college twice in two years, listened to its problems and apprised it to the concerned authorities. There are few doors that are without the stains of our knocks- from Commissioners to EM then to the CM level with partial success but we are unrelenting. Memories are still vivid and fresh.

On the 13th August 2019 during a meeting with the Hon’ble CM, N Biren Singh I made an emotive appeal for the restoration of Pettigrew College commensurate to the name of its founder and his beatific stature. The CM thoroughly amused with my gab quipped, “Aren’t you from Kangpokpi district and why are you taking so much keen interest on an educational institution located in Ukhrul?”

To which I answered- “I refuse to let the college that bears the name of the man who brought both the gospel and modern education to the hills rot. For it is my moral, social and religious responsibility to ensure its development.”

I have done my part though with little result. So now the onus is on the magnanimous souls of the Tangkhul public, social leaders, elected representatives, Government employees, National workers and district officials to open their benevolent heart and generously contribute for the welfare and development of Pettigrew College. Let us not wait for the Government for procedural works of Government are either too tardy or unreliable.

And to all the Churches of the Tangkhul faithful, cutting across denominations, being the custodians of the public morality and Christian ethos it is my humble prayer that since Pettigrew College is intrinsically intertwined with our very own faith and caters to the academic needs of the young Church’s members as such warrants your participation for the success of this noble endeavour.

And if we are at all to deliver justice to Rev. William Pettigrew, to who we owe many, the only answer is to make Pettigrew College worthy of the name it bears. And why should we as a Christian hesitate in being benevolent for this was the man who had clear road to that blessed home, heaven, for all of us.

It is my unwavering belief and appeal that, if all the Churches under the auspices their respective denominational head-offices can set aside ‘one Sunday Church service’ by organising special offering and prayer services meant for the betterment of Pettigrew College, it will surely bring forth divine results.

Post-script- This appeal was written right after my second visit to Pettigrew College but kept on hold for extraneous reasons. The current COVID pandemic that had forced us to extricate thousands of students from outside and the urgent demand for the revival of local colleges to accommodate repatriated students spurred me into publishing it .

The writer is presently an inmate of Leikop Quarantine center, Kangpokpi district as he was found to be positive with COVID-19.

* Kakai Singsit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on October 13, 2020.

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