By the turn of the next generation, the Manipur society probably will be further segmented along a new class system, all this thanks to the government’s management of its education responsibilities. We must add here that in the school sector, the government is making some valiant and imaginative interventions, and we wish it all success. We hope it is able to make similar interventions in the college sector too soon. Till such a time, we can foresee at least three new classes emerging. Purportedly standing on the top of the hierarchy would be by and large young job seekers whose parents have accumulated enough wealth by whatever means for their children to inherit. In the second tier would be those who have had education in schools outside the state or else private schools in the state, therefore at an advantage in competitions for professional courses such as medicine, engineering etc. Three, will constitute those who have been unfortunate to be condemned to study in the state’s many non-functional government schools and colleges. The third understandably will be in the majority. It is everybody’s knowledge today that there is something very rotten in the government schools and colleges of the state. Yet there is so much vested interests in the status quo, that no radical reform has been possible ever. It is sad but true that there cannot be a bigger testimony of the abject failure of social engineering in the state than in its inability to salvage the collapse of its school and college education systems.
The fallouts are obvious. In what may be described as a domino effect, the fall of the school system has also meant a cloud over higher education as well. Many of the state’s colleges have potential, and a few of them actually used to command awesome academic reputations in the entire Northeast in the past. Many among the men and women of the 1960s generations, who have earned themselves social respect and station not just in Manipur, but also in neighbouring Nagaland and Mizoram, it is not a surprise, have had their higher education in DM College. However, there has been a steady decline, partly because of bad management of the institutions themselves, together with corrupt government recruitment processes which have seldom kept merit the criterion. If an enquiry were to be done today, it will not at all be a surprise at all to find even fake Ph.Ds have been allowed in the competition for lecturers’ posts. But the reason also has been overwhelmingly because the feeder institutions to these colleges – our government schools – have not groomed students fit enough to pursue quality higher studies meaningfully. Thanks to this, today, the number of degree holders who are not capable even of grasping the fundamentals behind the working of the judiciary, legislature, executive etc, would amaze anybody. These degree holders have no option but to look for government jobs for it is here the degree and not the skill of the man holding it matters. In the private sector, they will have to fend for themselves and prove their competitive worth always, and unlike in the government cocoon their degrees are no guarantee for either success or job security. What we want today are young men and women who can with confidence stand up to be tested by the fire of open competition, and for whom job avenues are open both in the government and the private sectors, as well as the unexplored territories of entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, this goal still seems illusory.
These are serious issues, much more serious than the worry over which minister gets which portfolio, or who bags which government contract job etc. In the long run, the ability to tackle these issues will surely be the answer to many of our larger, vexing issues. The familiar tactics of those in power when faced with these uneasy questions is to shift the blame to insurgency. We would even go to the extent of reversing this logic to say the failure of governance on these fronts have been a strong factor, although not the only factor, behind the endemic bad law and order situation. The time has come for a serious rethink. Let all realize that even in war, it is the bounden duty of all, but especially the government, to ensure that at the end of the war there will be some things of quality left in the devastated landscape to rebuild the society from.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam