A Respite at Last

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At least the state can heave a sigh of relief that college teachers under All Manipur College Teachers`™ Association, AMCTA, have decided to lift their cease work strike after a meeting with the Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi, and Education Minister, M Okendro, ostensibly on the promise that the teachers`™ demands would be met. We are certain the demands are just, but as we have time and again said, making scapegoats of students for any demand whatsoever is unjust and extremely irresponsible. Even if the Government, for whatever its compulsions, and we are again sure that it would have plenty of them, is unable to keep its promises fully, we do hope the teachers would not again resort to cease work. If the strike must continue, let them do it other ways, such as boycotting the principals they do not want or the Chief Minister and the Education Minister, but at whatever the cost, they must leave the students alone. It was indeed encouraging to see even when the AMCTA cease work strike was on full swing, there were many teachers who extended their moral support to the cause of the AMCTA, but continued taking classes.

There can be no further argument that the most daunting challenge before education in the state today is uplifting the standard of higher education. At the moment, it is in the pit. No parents who can afford it want their wards to remain in the state for higher education, and similarly, all student who aspire for more than just a degree, would consider it a letdown if they were left to do their college education in the state. We also know once upon a time, even when teachers were drawing only a pittance as salaries, this was not the case. The reputations of colleges in the state, in particular that of DM College, reached far beyond the boundaries of the state, and if a survey were to be done on the kind of alumni this college has amongst people now in their 70s and 80s, it will include several men and women of exceptional leadership, not just of Manipur, but of neighbouring Mizoram and Nagaland as well. Today, this profile has altered altogether and indeed beyond recognition. Students with means would rather go and study in some nondescript colleges in rural UP and other Indian states, than be in the hands of the state`™s educators. Alumni profile of current generation top job holders will also confirm even those who have studied in these nondescript colleges outside the state are ahead of those who have had to remain in Manipur. Can anything be more shameful? We wish these issues were the focus of concern of the state education department and the teaching community.

In the school sector, there has been a revolution, thanks to the entry of private players, the initial seeds for which were sown by Catholic Mission Schools. Today, parents can stay longer with their children, guiding them, for many private schools here are beginning to give as good education as anywhere else. Sadly though, most government schools are without students, arguably for the same reasons no good students ever want to be in Manipur`™s many colleges. Ironically, this is true of even children of college teachers and education department officials in the Manipur government. Most of them probably have their children studying in colleges outside the state, and not in the colleges they administer or teach. A teachers`™ cease work strike in these educational institutes then amounts to using the careers of young men and women not their own progenies to advance whatever their causes or interests are. Let the government and teachers sit down together and thrash out the matter. Let all just demands by the teachers be met. Let the teachers have their right to strike, but under no circumstance must teaching be allowed to cease during the teaching seasons just as the right to strike is taboo in essential and emergency services. If this sacrosanct principle is ever compromised by anybody, the government should, as the Education Minister recently threatened to do, invoke the law of dies non, or no-work-no-pay, and even look to fresh recruitment of teachers who can do what they are meant to do `“ teach. Let all for once agree that the very reason government educational institutes exist at such the cost to public tax money, is to produce good students and therefore good future taxpaying citizens.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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