TODAY -

We did Overcome: The Mayhem of the Month of May

Sqrdn Leader Retd Vidula Abhyankar *



Everything looks gay and green to the British poets in the merry month of May; unlike in India where the month is known for its cruel hot winds and the heat wave that brings a sense of laziness in the whole country.

Adding on to this sizzling heat is the turning point in the lives of all of us engaged in the field of education, be it the parents, teachers, or the students themselves: the result declaration for class 10th and 12th Board Exams.

Be it the Central Board of School Education or the various State Boards, Board exam results are announced in the month of May to facilitate the students to appear for further competitive exams such as JEE or NEET. Every year the results for class XIIth are announced first, followed by that of the Xth class after a week or so.

This year CBSE gave a double bonanza, as both the class Xth and XIIth results were declared on the same day: the 13th of May. I had a double interest in following the results as I was associated with Sainik School Imphal along with my husband and, on a personal note, my own daughter and some of our colleagues’ daughters and sons were also appearing for the examination.

By God’s grace my daughter passed with flying colours and so did all the cadets of class XIIth and class Xth of Sainik School Imphal. As a parent and as the First Lady, I was very happy and satisfied with the cadets’ performance.

It just happened so that the same day: 13th of May was our last day at Imphal and it turned out to be a memorable day in all respects. Sitting at the Airport lounge, waiting for our flight to New Delhi, we started to look back upon the last one year and how the school had tried to overcome different obstacles to achieve those Results.

And then, it reminded us of the fateful day of 03rd May 2023; the day when the merry month of May turned ghastly over the gay poppy seeds. The school had been facing a severe crunch of water supply and had to send the cadets on early summer vacation in the month of March and now it was time for them to return to school.

04th May 2023 when the city took an ugly face with the local population engaged in communal riots, the worst hit group was that of students all over the State. Students belonging to the Meitei and Kuki communities living in the affected areas of the valley as well as the whole State; suddenly found themselves fighting with their own friends for no fault of theirs.

Sainik School being a home to cadets of all communities from all oyer the State, suddenly found itself to be a soft target for all those trying to harm the “other” community the most. But once it was made clear that there were no Cadets living inside the campus, the threat was reduced to some extent.

The biggest problem that stood before the school administration now was to ensure the availability of the cadets. It was necessary to commence the session for cadets of classes X and XII. Option of conducting online classes was impossible with the complete ban on Internet facility in the State.

The only option available was the conduct of offline classes for the cadets of XII and X grade. When it was decided to call back cadets belonging to these two classes one by one, problems started to crop up.

When the staff members started to connect with the families of cadets, it was found that all the cadets belonging to the Kuki tribe living in Imphal valley and Meitei tribe living in other affected districts of the State had been displaced to various Transit camps all over the State. They were scared to death and did not know how to come back to school.

Asking them to pay the annual fees in such critical condition was another inhuman yet essential task. They wanted the school authorities to come and pick up the cadets from these Transit camps; which was further impossible as the school did not possess sufficient security measures to do so.

A case was taken up to transfer these cadets to nearby Sainik Schools in the region for the current academic session. With blood boiling all over the State and increasing threat to personal safety and security of citizens; this issue was not the only one to handle for the State and Central administration and thus, it took a back seat.

Hence after comprehensive debates and deliberations, it was decided to shift the cadets to a Sainik School in the neighbouring State. Some monetary aid was also given by the Central Forces to the needy cadets for timely payment of fees.

Once these cadets were shifted, the other category of cadets affected most was that of cadets belonging to other States. After watching the graphic details displayed on the global social media platforms, parents of cadets living in other States of the country were scared too. They were reluctant to send their wards to study in SSI henceforth. While some of them decided to withdraw their wards, some stood with the school administration and agreed to send their wards back to school.

With settlement of such administrative issues, finally the academic session for cadets of classes XII and X commenced in the month of June. Time was short yet; the most challenging task was to keep the cadets engaged throughout the day and late in the evening Without drawing much attention from the burning issues of neighbourhood.

Which cadet could concentrate on mundane topics like Trigonometry and shape of an atom when s/he knew that his/her mother would be sitting out on the road night after night guarding their villages? Adding on to teachers’ woes was the ban on internet facility.

Classroom teaching became monotonous and follow-up of topics, clarification of doubts, practise of similar questions was totally unavailable. In the beginning, every time they heard gunshots in the neighbourhood, they would duck under their desks. As time passed, they called it background music and ignored it. For some it was like a wake-up call and motivated them to further concentrate on their textbooks.

Team SSI includes not only officers and teaching staff but also the administrative staff, general employees and casual labourers. Every staff member’s presence is important for making the life of a cadet safe, healthy and fruitful.

While the Teachers, Librarian, Lab assistants, PTI and the school counsellor kept a close watch on all of them in the academic block; the administrative staff, especially the Quarter Master and Mess Manager ensured the availability of safe and secure living and dining conditions for the cadets. House Masters and Wardens took initiative and kept a check on inter house rivalries and wrong use of authority by senior cadets.

Using all possible methods, the administrative staff overcame the hurdles presented by the local environment for the cadets for making all necessary items such as uniforms, stationeries, sports equipment and grounds, halls, and classrooms available to the cadets. The unavailability of internet was overcome with obtaining a White line connection for the academic block through a Landline connection.

With the senior classes, there was another challenge that the school faced which was to prepare them for the NDA entrance exam; written as well as SSB. Cadets did not disappoint us and kept themselves busy with self-study in the afternoon and in the evenings.

A morale booster was the result of UPSC written exam where 04 cadets of class XII became eligible for the SSB interview. Out of them 02 went on to clear their SSB interview and secure a place in the National Merit List for the training at NDA.

All the celebrations such as Teachers’ Day, Independence Day, Republic Day, and Inter-House competitions were conducted with least amount of festivity. Instead, cadets were encouraged to think, talk, and contribute to improving social harmony and effectiveness with events such as Debate Competition, Talk on Gender Sensitisation, Drill Competition, Swach Bharat Abhiyaan, Combined Annual Training Camp for NCC cadets and Group Discussions.

In addition to the academic course, cadets were encouraged to hold some more positions of responsibility such as Cadet In charge of Discipline, Dining Etiquettes. Sports and so on. Once the course was completed by the teachers, now came the time for preparing them for the 03-hour exams. Every day was spent in preparation for the Annual exam for the cadets of class X and XII.

Some cadets were tempted to use short cuts such as cheating and copying from others answersheets during the PreBoard exams. They were counselled and explained the importance of hard work in obtaining success. Some others who were not aware of their potential were encouraged to challenge themselves. The weak links and the brightest ones were challenged to outperform their peer groups.

Once the exams commenced and as the cadets appeared for each subject, they realised the papers were not so tough as most of the questions asked were already solved by them. With each paper, their confidence regained, they persevered to perform even better in the next paper.

Coming to 13 May and following days, when the results were announced and analysed in detail and the worth of schools was reiterated all over the country; I can proudly say that the result of Sainik School Imphal cadets speaks much more than the percentile.

Although they have outperformed all the previous batches, one cannot and must not compare the performance of these cadets with the performance of prior batches or other students across the Nation as these marks are not just the marks obtained for writing correct answers in the Board exams.

In fact, it is a saga of grit, determination, and selfbelief in the trying times of no internet for 08 months with blood-shed all around and an environment full of hatred and mistrust. Once again, the Youth of the State have proved that they are only interested and capable of bringing in Inclusive and Sustainable Development for all.

We need to be proud of their efforts and decisions they took to focus on the right things even in such difficult times. Unlike some other Youth of the State who have fallen prey to the temptations of communal hegemony and supremacy, these cadets want to use their muscle power to serve their State as well as their country in the right spirit.

So, for all of us associated with the cadets, who believed in them: the teachers, support staff, parents, and the alumni, let us raise a toast.

We did Overcome!


* Sqrdn Leader Retd Vidula Abhyankar wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on 29 May 2024

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