By Rongreisek Yangsorang
The present Manipuri society is certainly and greatly alarmed at the poorly managed government schools with wild rumour painted in the darkest colours that the local education system will be unnecessarily discredited. It is feared that the mounting pressure of hostile public opinion about the schools which are unable to rise to the mark may render closure of government schools. In the HSLCE/11, there are, of course, quantitative gains, the percentage of pass in government high schools rising by some degrees, though continuously falling standards. The sentiment of the guardians on the heated issue of failure is becoming frenetic by the day. The one thing sadly lacking is support—whose or what support? It is the supportable base encircled by a team of bureaucrats of clean image and a few selfless law makers in the state legislative assembly who have a vision of a glorious future in the education sector. Whether the state has men of such stature to revive the unproductive educational institutions? Surely, it does have.
What a cursed profession teaching in government schools has become and what a thankless job it is——laments a head mistress of repute of Imphal city area. At a time when the responsibilities and functions of Head Masters of Government High Schools have become greater, they are placed in a pitiful grade following the implementation of new pay scales which have completely demoralized them. They have felt deceived and their status in the society withdrawn. They are not demanding what shouldn’t be theirs. They are only demanding that the pre-downward revision scale of pay of Rs.7500 with a corresponding Grade Pay of Rs.4800 PM should be restored at once as is in the case of their equivalents in the same department. Why is this discrimination? In every revision, injustice of every sort has been done to them. In fact, the existing head masters are occupying their posts after clearing tiers of departmental promotion and after having put in more than thirty years of service on an average, quite unlike those officers in other government departments. Straight away, I can say that it is their lifelong achievement in the profession.
It is difficult to believe that the downgraded head masters of government high schools in Manipur will contribute extra stamina to give a face-lift to school education in the state. The grade pay of Rs.4400 meant for them is one hundred rupees less than that of senior trained graduate teachers which is in sharp contrast to central pay structures. It is nothing but a step further for abolition of the posts of head masters of high schools in Manipur. Can we expect a better education without head masters in our society? It is impracticable. Manipur alone will be the state in the country to downgrade head masters without justification. Let us recall the status and pay scale of head masters in the past. Also, as per the modified Central Civil Services (Revised Pay) Rules, 2008: dated 12.3.2009, trained graduate teachers are placed in PB-3 with a Grade Pay of Rs.5400 PM.
In the most unlikely manner, the recent orders of the Finance Department (PIC) of Manipur: dated 9-6-2011 has not covered the head masters of high schools in Manipur. It is really saddening. The dictum that performing employees deserve better pay scales will have no rationale and merit. There are many departments whose officers with bulky pay are failing in many respects, and are unable to provide the basic needs of the people. Why to blame only teachers, not those who have destroyed the very foundation of educational structure for poor performances of students in the Board Examinations? There are various factors responsible for it. One factor—High School Teachers are often called out for different Governmental assignments while teaching in the schools. While private high schools are generally able to perform better, overt commercialization of education has greatly affected the quality of education. It is important to note that the rot in the government schools has also spread to private schools. Despite charging hefty fees, the corresponding input in teaching cannot be achieved. Invariably, students have to resort to private tuition to attain proficiency and the ability to appear in examinations. Education of that fashion is beyond the means of low income groups. In most of the two hundred government high schools in Manipur, there are no clerks, and no head masters. Some sixty high schools have headmasters of their own while the rest of them have none. There are schools which have no mathematics teachers.
Over a hundred posts of head masters have been lying vacant in the department for so long with no arrangement in sight to fill the said posts as well. In the early 2013AD, two-third of the head masters out of sixty will retire from service on superannuation. At the same time, more than a hundred posts of assistant head masters of high schools cannot be filled in the absence of seniority list as yet. There will be no assistant head masters who can be promoted to the posts of head masters of high schools in that year. In this way, a large number of govt. high schools in Manipur will be head masterless in 2013. Under the circumstances, it is hard to imagine the overall set up of those schools by that time. A thousand graduate teachers of different streams may be appointed in the years to come without having to bother for promotion of teachers to higher posts. The school education department will not attract talented persons to become teachers when there is no planning or arrangement for promotion of teachers to higher posts in spite of a fat budget for big spending with the allocation for school education in the state budget estimates for 2011-12 being more than Rs. 613 crores.
On helpless head masters: They are having a hard time in the schools and find it difficult to cope with the situation whenever erratic teachers revolt for their own conveniences flexing their muscles. Head masters are not allowed to function freely in the management of school affairs due to disturbances from different quarters worsened by growing student indiscipline as a chronic malaise. Becoming the soft-targets of of any bloc, they work only on the diktats of political heavy-weights and ultras. They have suffered a lot and have become sacrificial lambs at the hands of the “many.”In my enquiry, I have found that the existing Head Masters and Head Mistresses hardly have the backing of strong men in the Council of Ministers or the State Bureaucracy to strengthen their platform. That’s why their position looks utterly feeble and awkward. With the advent of electronic media in everyday life, responsibilities of head masters have compounded. They are occupied with huge works. Their primary objective is to improve teaching and learning in the schools, but due to shortage of teachers and without adequate infrastructure like computers, they are handicapped and are all helpless to move forward. At this juncture, the attention of the head of the department may be drawn that a head master is not supposed to prepare pay bills of the employees and go to treasury offices to negotiate with, every time. Besides, they are to be conversant with computerization of data, data-bank and websites when the gadgets are not easily available in most of the government high schools. The department of school education of Manipur seems to be unfazed by these increased work-loads of head masters.
Till the late 70s, Govt.aided high schools were better managed, and working discipline was very much intact. By the missionary zeal of the efficient teachers appointed for the 109 high Schools taken over by the state govt. of Manipur in August, 1978, the capacity of the students was enhanced through internal assessment, constant counseling and other similar techniques. In my vivid memory, Head Masters of High Schools of yester years were pivotal earning respect from their colleagues, and teachers too were committed to the profession. Their advantage was that the department of that time did not adopt an over centralized approach. In other words, a cordial working relationship was evolved between the directorate and the head masters.
Today, however, the shape of education if to refer to govt. schools has drastically changed and enough is already known relating to the failure of the system when the underprivileged class mostly ends up in these institutions. Due to unabated political interference, inappropriate recruitment of teachers without filling the vacant posts for years together, adding of more teachers to the overstaffed schools and lack of essential facilities, a sizeable number of such schools have now been reduced to mere enrolling offices. Or there is every chance of Govt. High Schools becoming dead-wood as students can make a choice to switch over to ever expanding private high schools in Manipur. There are scores of pressing issues that require a quick overhaul. Will it be a pipe dream to reform the system—-fighting a lost battle?
Born a minority in the ocean of major communities here in Manipur, I have no political backing, and mine is of a poor background. The only wealth I am in possession of is the legacy of my semi-literate dad’s spirit whose dedication to the spread of modern education in a hill hamlet remains worthy of introspection. In 47, among the prominent political figures in Manipur then was a liberal thinking Toijam Heitonbi Singh of Nambol in the Imphal valley whose teaching as a leader was inspirational for my father to start a vernacular school. Later, the leader was elected to the territorial assembly of Manipur. Let my investigation, my passion for innovative ideas, and still what could be the fearless spirit but not in any spirit of boastfulness fire the imagination of many a student and teacher in Manipur—–to save government schools from decay for the sake of children of poor parents and those who have no money in their purses otherwise poor students of the present and the coming generation will find themselves at the ultimate losing end. It is a caution for all.
Lastly, the centralized edifice of decision-making in which even minute procedural matters to be directed by the department will hinder every scheme of school education. It is only fair if the department reconsiders its over-centralized approach and allows heads of institutions to execute their functions without too much strictures. The head of the department may skillfully employ different meters to suit the fast changing educational scenario in Manipur. A good head of the department, who is convinced of the imperfection of human nature, must be conscious of the great liability to error in managing the affairs of the vast education sector which is like a mini empire: and therefore he will be anxious to afford to every individual the readiest means of bringing to his notice whatever may require his intervention. To secure this selective objective, he will never be one-sided to distribute sweets among his employees equally. The kind of venture initiated by a high profile officer of high grade will be always rewarding.