Schools, colleges, universities - “unite for a better tomorrow”
Dr Aniruddha Babar
“The teacher could never be ordinary. Both, construction and destruction, belongs to him.”
~ Vishnugupta (375 BCE-283 BCE), ancient Indian polymath who was active as a teacher, author, strategist, philosopher, economist, jurist, and royal advisor.
Everything that I have ever written and spoken in my life has always had a base of reality. My Poems and Stories and all other pieces of writing shines in the glory and darkness of my world. I cannot construct fairy tales, but what I can simply do is to remain as an unbreakable, tall and huge mirror to reflect ‘nudity’ of the society that I am part of. I take pride in my profession and everything else that I do. Profession of a Teacher was never an ordinary profession. To, those who think it’s ordinary and to those who joined this profession as a last resort-with due respect, I have great pity.
At present, I am writing at my desk at Tetso College while deriving inspiration from colleagues around in the staff room. I am familiar with the academic world of our region. My students taught me many things about the primary and secondary education system here. I personally visited many schools and colleges in remotest of the regions in Nagaland to understand how they function. Through my experiences what I have understood that there are many issues and challenges that the students in Nagaland have been encountering. Even in 2022, our Naga students have to experience and suffer from the issues like proxy teachers and also unqualified, incompetent, demotivated teaching staff. Moreover, many schools lack basic infrastructure, they fail to equip themselves with state of the art facilities to facilitate students to connect with the changing dynamics of our country and the world. Even the higher education institutions in Nagaland also suffer from problems like inadequate teaching infrastructure, unprofessional management, meagre remuneration to the teaching staff, lack of innovative outlook and research, inadequate funds, lack of job guaranteed/professional courses etc. However, for me the biggest problem in our education system in India is its outdated model. We are stuck with syllabus, courses and pedagogy which has been totally outdated hence should not have any place and space in the academic culture of our country, however that is another story, since it’s a policy matter therefore deserved to be discussed in depth separately.
Schools and Colleges in our region produces toppers. We have Gold Medalists, Rank holders everywhere. We have good number of students passing every year with first class. It’s good. It seems we are part of some sort of a success story however from my perspective this all is a grand illusion. This is not exactly what we think it is. The myth of positive ratio of correlation between School, College, University Rank and Success (it is a relative term which also needs separate discussion however by success here I mean, professional success in terms of material status of a person in the most general terms and understanding which we are taught is necessary to live a dignified life in human society) can be shattered if the data of last 30 years covering School, College and University Rank holders is studied and I predict the results would shocking. The discussion that I am trying to initiate here has a relevance. It has relevance because I feel our society is unique. We are unique not just because we have a unique history and culture but also our social evolution has been unique as well and therefore our needs are unique too. Consequently, the issues and dynamics of overall education matrix in Nagaland must be taken into consideration if we desire to build a better society and better world for us and our future generations.
Nagaland is a land of complications, confusions and questions. Number of issues are there which deserved to be recognized and sorted out. The report on NITI Aayog's SDG indicates that 73% of the population in Nagaland lives below the national poverty line (we can safely assume that around 14 lakh people are living below the poverty line in our state). The naked, proven reality of ‘Child Labour’ needs to haunt the collective consciousness of our Naga society. The demons of HIV/AIDS, Drugs, invisible prostitution have been lurking around since years. Sin of corruption is widely venerated and celebrated. Governance and Government floating in the bubble of political illusion. Common people have been kept in amnesia by powerful, corrupt, power mongering leaders who ignorantly dream for more wealth, more power at the cost of ‘survival’ of our people. We have no industries here. We have no jobs here. Our state has earned a unique but notorious identity- “a fertile region of government servants where at least one person in family is in a government service who never or in rarest of the rare cases goes to work”. We have tribalism, one tribe does not understand and recognize the other-and we talk about unity. People living at Indo-Myanmar Border- our Khiamniungans are thrown in some distant corner of the state-nobody in Kohima or Dimapur knows how they live/survive, under what circumstances their generations are growing, nobody cares. Alcohol is flooded in Nagaland, freely available, accessible- drinking alcohol (ALL TYPES AND ALL BRANDS OF ALCOHOL) is visible reality in our Christian state. In this complicated, dangerous circumstances our students were born and surviving.
We are living in a state where we are compelled to redefine the core understanding of ‘Governance’. Many of my friends here sometimes ignorantly accused me of being a victim of “Mumbaikar” version of life and development. I feel sad. I am not Mumbaikar, I left Mumbai long back and I consider myself a Naga who does not look- but feel like Naga. The issues that I always speak about are the real issues that our people here have been battling for ages. I do not attempt to be sounding ‘utopian’. I am realist.
As a Professor I feel my students have every right to deserve everything that I had in my time as a UG/PG student- nothing more, nothing less. It is a responsibility of a state to take care of my students, but state has been consistently failing. Why should my students come to the streets every time in the month of July-August for their rightful scholarship? Moreover, our tribal visionaries who supposed to be a bridge between state and the people are victims of tribalism and tribalistic views which is actually suffocating my students who are dreaming of a free, egalitarian world. My students cannot breathe in ‘moral prison’ of ‘tribal loyalty and so called obligations’. This is the truth that muffled their voice. What is the future of my Students in Tribal Prisons and worst performing State of Nagaland? If they lose their faith in these institutions, they would not be at fault. I observe everything minutely to construct a solution. Education, Political, Social and Legal Institutions are basically the pillars of any society. What is the status of those pillars in our Nagaland? I QUESTION!
Consider me here as an Advocate of my students, and on behalf of my students I propose to create a parallel system that would be the most beneficial to them in the most adverse and dreaded circumstances that they have been surviving in Nagaland. The system that I have been visualizing is neither political nor tribal system. The system will actually be self-sufficient if all the participants and operators in the system contribute equally with common vision.
I proposed that all Schools, Colleges, Universities (Private, Aided, unaided, Government) to join their hands together and develop some sort of “Consortium” that would be able to collectively take care of the needs of each of the operators. For e.g. say a school in Zunheboto lacks good Mathematics teacher, and Kohima Science College has excellent Maths Professors so in such a situation Kohima Science College can make an arrangement with consent from needy school to help them. The ‘cooperation’ can sort out the problems of infrastructure as well. For e.g. some school in Noklak needs six computers but they do not have sufficient funds to fulfill the requirement, the proposed consortium can take initiative and fulfill the needs. Government institutions may face some technical issues in this kind of arrangement due to their legal status however, they can always support the other participants and operators in proposed consortium with the expertise of their staff members if not monetary contribution. I could give more examples to simplify my idea.
This system that I am trying to visualize will bridge the gap between Schools, Colleges and Universities and the needs of the participants can be mutually taken care by virtue of developing some sort of a common fund. Also, the proposed idea can solve the problem of quality teaching as well, since an academic cooperation and free movement of teachers are possible in this system. MOROEVER, all those things for which funds are not available to the education institutions for any reason my proposed ‘consortium’ can provide. In short I propose- LET THERE BE ACADEMIC, ECONOMIC, MANAGERIAL, INFRASTRUCTURAL COOPERATION AMONG “ALL” THE EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS IN NAGALAND WITHOUT ANY DISCRIMINATION OR PREJUDICE IN THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR STUDENTS.
The future of our students and therefore the upcoming society is in the hands of Academicians not politicians or civil society leaders. History has testified from time to time that a teacher who is a custodian of knowledge can create a new world and bring changes in society as and when necessary. In Nagaland we often talk about change. How will change come, from where? I have an answer. Change will not come from Kohima or New Delhi, but change will come from every School, every College, every university in Nagaland and our teachers have to sacrifice themselves so that on the foundation of their ashes our NAGA students would be able to freely construct the NEW WORLD of their dream.
(Dr Aniruddha Babar is a Professor of Political Science & International Law at Tetso College in Dimapur, Nagaland)
May 17 2022