Past Sin Present Misery

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The retort of a Myanmar journalist Nay Htun Naing in a reply to a reply by U Myint, the economic advisor to the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, should make sensitive administrator and educationist in Manipur uneasy as well. The 29 year old journalist had made a criticism of the country`™s economic policy, and the economic advisor had rubbished the criticism saying the journalist was not educated enough and what he said was not intelligible because of poor articulation in English. He further dismissed the journalist saying there was no way they could communicate, for they were on very different wavelengths as they were classes apart. In a reply to this reply, Naing wrote back saying that it was Myint`™s generation who spoilt the future of his generation by destroying the education system in the country. Naing`™s bad English writing skills and poor education hence becomes a report card for Myint`™s generation and other power brokers of the erstwhile military junta, who gave themselves the best of liberal Western education once available in the country, and after the military coup in the 1962 destroyed the education system at home but sent their children to foreign universities, using their positions of power. So interesting was the story that the IFP reproduced an account of it in yesterday in its Sunday edition.

Altogether under different circumstances, Manipur too is face with a similar situation. As in Myanmar which was under a corrupt and self-centred military administration for 60 years, the education system in Manipur too is in virtual ruins because of the selfishness of the past few generations of politicians and administrators. The indicator for this is the continuing flight of students, especially for college and university education, outside the state. Under normal circumstances, only students whose parents are in all India transferable services, therefore never rooted at one place during service years, should have preferred to send away their wards to colleges away from home. One, it means a lot of extra expenditure and second, the home environment has things which no boarding facilities can offer. School and college years are also the only time parents and children truly spend quality time together. After this, there are only separations of varying degrees, forced by the demands of modern living, waiting. For a long time, many parents in Manipur were also desperately pulling whatever resources within their command to send their children off to schools outside the state. Today, this is an option, but not an absolutely necessary one. In the last one or two decades, there has been an immense, indeed heroic revival of school education quality. A lot of thanks for this must go to the Catholic mission schools. It was they who laid the seeds for a revolution in school education system in the state. Taking the cue from them, today there are a slew of very good and very competitive private schools everywhere, churning out students able to face national and state competitions with little or no disadvantage. The results of the entrance examinations to the most sought after professional courses each year, such as medicine and engineering, are ample evidence of this. The state of government schools however remains pathetic by and large, except for a few model schools where the government is concentrating extra effort to improve. We await the day when all government schools are lifted out of the pit they are in because of corruption of the power elite which sold jobs as in open auctions for generations.

In higher education, there is little to be said still. No students whose parents can afford the cost want to do their college in Manipur. If allegations by college teacher are anything to go by, appointments are still made arbitrarily. One of the demands of the striking college teachers who stopped work recently was for the government to undo certain allegedly undeserving appointments of principals. They pointed out many issues, including one where fake Ph.Ds from a fake university in Shillong was used to score Academic Performance Index, API, points. The case of this fake university was widely publicised in the country and in the state. It is believed many college teachers in the state, and not just the one appointed as principal, had used fake Ph.Ds from this university for career advancement. How can anybody or any professional community who swear by quality education remain silent on this? Why are the government and the multiplying number of students vigilante bodies mute on this? Let it be known, though on paper Manipur`™s literacy rate is high, most of these literates hold degrees or skills with little worth in the real competitive job market. At best, they can join the corrupt culture of paying bribes to get government jobs.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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