By Amar Yumnam
The moment any individual attains any maturity, he has to keep reminding himself of one thing all the time. In his progression of life, he has incurred so much debt from many varied people and diverse places. Such debt can never ever be repaid to the same person and the same place to whom the person owes. The persons and the places would not even be having in their minds this service they have rendered as the preoccupation of their minds; they might be doing it just out of their humanitarian norms. This, however, does by no means imply that the debts should never be thought of repaying by the persons who had incurred them. The repayments can only be thought of as performed only when these individuals render services to the younger lots in the same way they had had the fortune of enjoying them in their progression of life. It is this transmission of good norms from one generation to another which sustains society and allows social life to continue forever.
But man does not live by bread alone. In the same way, the society is not survived by this alone. A society needs to be strengthened in every phase for a stagnant society is a dead society. This progression of society into higher levels from one stage to another is not, however, something which happens spontaneously. It requires continual transformation of the key components constituting the core of social strength. This transformation demands and involves the committed thinking and dedicated works of some people. These people would, with their dedication and sacrifices, mobilise the existing social strength and direct the social capital to further enhance the quality of social life. These people themselves had at no stage thought that the society would repay their sacrifices directly to them but had at most thought that the future generations would lead a better life. These good works of these people are not one shot kind of affair. Further, it would be very costly and development would be stunted if the society needs to repeat the efforts of these individuals in every era of social progression. Like in the case of the individuals, it is in the interest of the society itself that the strengths created by these people are sustained by continually renewing the created strengths. The stagnation in these strengths would amount to the stagnation of the society itself and ultimate decline.
Education is the best strength if properly structured, and it can also be the weakest spot of any society. The significance of this foundation of social strength is on the rise globally with it emerging as the ultimate determinant differentiating a vibrant society from a laggard one. The speed of this transformation is getting faster while the complexity too is rising in order to address rising complexities of life anywhere.
It is exactly in this context that we need to be applying our individual as well as collective mind to the education sector of Manipur. Are we and our society alive and grateful to the strengths once created by individuals of vision and dedication to the deepening and widening of this social strength? Are we trying to sustain and renew the strengths generated by these people in the earlier generations? The responses to these questions would explain to a large extent the roots of the socio-political malaise Manipur suffers today.
As a person who earns his bread in this sector and as someone who had the fortune of interacting with some godly souls a few decades back, attempting to respond to these questions is a personal and professional preoccupation. Without mincing any further, I must say that it causes painful feelings. The 1950s and 1960s saw the creation of social strength in the school level education sector, thanks to the efforts of the sacrificing individuals of those days. This was naturally followed by the addition of another gigantic effort for generating strength in the college level education in the 1970s by another group of dedicated individuals; the earlier decades too saw efforts in this direction but were very few and far between. Now we need to answer this question: Are we sustaining and renewing the strength created by these individuals? Or are we following a very costly and development stunting approach of repeating the efforts of the earlier individuals to create the social strength anew? The answer to the first question is in the negative. The answer to the second one is in the positive. The schools and colleges created by the dedication, sacrifices and mobilisation of social capital by the people of 1950s, 1960s and 1970s have now gone to the geese. The capability of the created institutions as foundations for building social strength have gone with the wind of contemporary dedication to the interests of the self irrespective of what happens to the society at large. Rather than sustaining these institutions with their capability and renewing it continually, Manipur now follows a very expensive – financial, time, and development outcomes- policy of recreating the same kind of efforts as were the case in the earlier decades. But the direction of dedication is dubious this time round. We now have arguably the most expensive school and college education anywhere in the developing world.
Revival of the capability of the institutions created in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in keeping with the spirit of the founders of those days is the need of the hour in Manipur. This is where the challenge and opportunity of the present Minister in charge of the sector lies. The people have not been looking up and expecting anything from any Minister in charge of education for quite some time. But today we have one to whom the people look up and expect something from him for the larger social life. With ways of life increasingly digitised, and with children once gone outside the State unwilling to return, the scale of the imperative and urgency for improving this sector’s competence by replacing the dedication to kill by the old dedication to build have never been felt before.