Education in Manipur – India’s Forgotten State
By Madhu Chandra *
The response from the Central Government toward Manipur and its ongoing issues: economic blockades, public outrage against armed forces, and the communal clashes between Naga-Kuki in 1990s, is one of negligence and is often termed India’s Forgotten State, particularly by the Indian media. These issues have adversely affected the education system in Manipur for the last two decades.
The government schools and colleges have totally failed in providing education for the masses in Manipur. The number of teaching staff in government schools and colleges are more in number than the numbers of students in many cases. This has caused the mushrooming of private schools throughout the hills and valleys and has become a messiah to preserve the educational system from total collapse.
The public strike, over 100 days a year, forces the closing of schools, business establishments, and public transportation. This affects the educational system and thus the economic condition of the state. This has been a problem for the last two decades as well.
Mohammad Ismat, a member of a minority community in Manipur, has astonished the nation by securing an all India topper of CSBE Class 12th Exam 2012. He hails from the state and the region where the educational system has almost collapsed and the nation has almost forgotten. However, in the midst of political unrest, the education has become races in some towns and villages and the talk of the day. Definitely, Kakching, the scheduled caste town in Thoubal district of Manipur, is one among them.
On August 5, 2012, in the Library and Information Centre of Kakching, a One Day Talk Program on Career Planning and Education Information was held. Over one hundred students and parents attended the meeting. Indeed, I have personally wanted to organise such meetings after I had completed my Master in Leadership and Management in Organizational Behaviour in 2004, but I am glad to see the dream fulfilled from a different source but for the same community.
Kakching is unique in its own geographical location, surrounded by the villages belonging to different tribes and communities. Agriculturally, Kakching is known as the rice bowl of Manipur. It is characterized by hard work and simple living. Kakching shares a major role in the field of education and sport at state, national, and international levels. The one day talk on education and career planning revealed a few unknown facts that I would like to share with others.
First Tribal Woman National Football Referee
Ms. Chim Chim Serto, from Aimol Serto village in Chandel district of Manipur, was brought up under the care of a couple from Kakching. She is the first tribal woman who works as a National Football Referee. In her talk, she shared how the public of Kakching has impacted her life. She has the potential to become an FIFA referee. To accomplish this goal she will need to pass few exams.
First Chartered Accountant in Manipur
Mr. Ksh Kunjabi Singh from Kakching, now residing at Imphal, is the first Chartered Accountant in Manipur. His daughter is also first woman Chartered Accountant from Manipur. Mr. Kunjabi, the main speaker of the One Day Talk on Career Planning and Education Information, narrated how he ended up choosing Chartered Accountant without any information and knowledge on the subject. After succeeding, he realised how important the subject was for the well being of financial matters in both the private and the government sectors. Choosing the stream of Chartered Accountant fills a need of the day and a path that students can consider while planning their careers.
First FIFA Referee from North East India
Moirangthem Mago Singh, who belongs to my clan “Moirangthem” and also my neighbour, is the first FIFA referee from the entire North East of India. India has twelve FIFA referees and currently, four of them are active. Mr. Mago is the second FIFA referee from India. He chose the field of football after he was unsuccessful in his attempts to join the Indian Active Service. Mr. Mago will appear at an important examination in Kuala Lumpur in December. If he succeeds, then he will be one of the upcoming World Cup referees, which will be held in Brazil in 2014. While addressing the crowd, Mago said that every student considering this career must understand that football is an art, a science, and a business. This career would be unattainable and unsustainable without an education.
The Challenges Ahead
The signpost of educational awakening within the state is not limited to the few examples above. Top class educational careers like passing a UPSC examination and state level toppers are a couple of classic examples. The clubs of these successful students along with NGOs, and many other institutions conduct the award-giving ceremonies to successful students in their villages and towns. The state newspapers are filled with the news of these events. It is the talk of the people in all manner of public places. These signposts are the beginning of a return to normal life for the people of Manipur that used to exist 25 years ago.
However, unmet challenges continue to face the state. A small section of the society considers education as an important and integral part of the society. The challenges lie in the economically weaker sections of the society. These are the ones who are unable to meet the financial costs of the private schools. This challenge must be met by rectifying the current government educational system.
Another challenge facing Manipur is the infrastructure of higher education. A lack of choices in the course of study in higher education results in many career paths not being available to students in Manipur. The existing conditions of colleges fail to meet the need of class 12th passing students every year. The parents who are economically advantaged can afford to send their children out of the state for their higher education. Many of these students face their own set of challenges outside Manipur: language, the standard of education, cultural change, and racial discrimination.
Though education is the talk of the day, it remains a challenge for the state of Manipur until the government run schools are rectified and develop higher educational infrastructure to meet the needs of the students.
* Madhu Chandra is a freelancer based at Kakching, Manipur. He is a social activist and research scholar, serving Dalit communities for last thirty years. He works as Regional Secretary of All India Christian Council (www.indianchristians.in) and Spokesperson of North East Support Centre & Helpline (www.nehelpline.net). He is undertaking a Doctorate program from South Asia Institute of Advance Christian Studies, majoring on human trafficking. The article first appeared in CounterCurrents.org.