By Amar Yumnam
Definitely the land and people of Manipur are today passing through a very crucial phase in her trajectory of evolution towards a viable, happening and sustainable society. It was a viable and influential society for long in history. It extended impacts and absorbed impacts from all the interactions with all around. This was particularly robust with the countries in the South East and East Asia. But it has gone through a very chequered, challenging and unpredictable directions for the last half a century or so. Starting from the skewed perspective of India and very imposing approach of nation-building in this part of the country, the various socio-political movements in between and the current resurgence of the people in every aspect of existence that matters, it definitely has come far. Only the other day, a friend from the American Centre talked to me over phone of the performance in the CBSE examinations. I immediately told him that “we would keep on proving”. The resilience of the Manipuris is not only historical, but it is real. The innate commitment and society-wide capability of people to resurge and re-establish themselves from the worst situations is just majestic. The people have refused to weaken themselves and been holding on their spirits for advancements despite repeated impositions from both state and non-state forces. Come what may, we know our role, responsibilities and arenas for action. A leading economist of the country very closely involved in policy-making at the country-level has been consistently asking for the last nearly two decades as to why Manipuris excel in sports despite the intractable violence and conflicts in the home. Now we are proving that even education we would not leave unconquered. So are we in science and technology too at the global level.
Now is the Moment: Now the world has taken notice and is listening being fully awaken to our capability. We are not flukes. But such moments need to be sustained. It is easier said than done. Now the onus is on the people of Manipur to continuously put in greater efforts to maintain our position. We have to forever run faster.
It is exactly here that the initiatives of the new minister looking after education in the State are worthy of our attention. Education in Manipur for the last three decades or so has reminded us of what John Connally said to the rest of the world on the Dollar problem of the 1970s: “The dollar is our currency and the problem is yours”. In exactly the same fashion, we have seen unattended deterioration in the education sector of the school and the college levels. Whomsoever in the government or in the various governing bodies have for so long been trying to milk the cow of school education without in any way bothering to stem the rot within. So it went on. We have even witnessed the scenario of rogue elements in the non-state forces following the same routine of milking the cow without improving the shed and the cow herself.
But today we have a new minister who is ready to pay the piper and call the tunes. This is what we have been waiting for rather too long. But it is better late than never, we always say. He is ready to look at the issues confronting education scenario in Manipur, call the shots and own the responsibility. The various movements of the 1960s and 1970s have given a new sense of identity, pride and assertion to the population. But all the happenings during the last three decades did lead to an atmosphere of lost of hope, cause and sense of survival. This definitely led to large scale addiction problems and many became wealthy on the business sustaining this social disease. In fact, many outside observers of our society and quite many insiders as well had expressed despair on the social capability for regeneration. It was our achievements in the sporting arena that only put a kind of comma to the full scale articulation of that expression of despair. But the recent manifestations of performance on the education sector have established an alternative understanding. The youths of Manipur have given up hope on the capability of the governance and the overall social atmosphere to ensure a life of hope, future and peaceful advancement. But, in a very positive and productive way, they have channelized their energy and commitment to only make themselves even more competitive at the global level. They have not confined their future to Manipur or India alone, they now look at the world as their arena of functioning. It is this channelization which has given us youths giving stellar performances on the academic and intellectual fronts.
Now the responsibility lies on the government on how it responds to the contribution of the youths for a new social revival and in a very positive way. The students have played their part starting from the topper to the little girl with all conceivable limitations proving her worth. It is here that current Minister of Education should play his historical role to sustain the new direction and maintain the social tempo where an optimism and a morale booster have been given to him to capitalise on.
Here the problem is much more than admitting all the students who have applied for admission into the three leading schools under the government. This resolves the immediate crisis but is not a sustainable intervention. The much larger challenge of giving a shape and a direction to the school education is still unaddressed. Now he has shown that he is ready to pay the piper and call the tune, he must apply his mind in right earnest (time is of the essence her) and put policies and programmes in place. The systemic issues should be addressed without losing time. Addressing these issues can only be done in an organisational way, and not in an individualised way. His commitment and capability should now be concentrated on how to put the organisational structure in place to sustain our dynamism in education. We have to catch the moment and the energy of the people.