Laishram Winson Tangkhul alias Winson Awungshi Siro, retired as a school teacher this year as a happy man with a sense of accomplishment few others can boast of. He was born with a physical disability which would have broken the spirit of anybody, but not him. He was, as the popular adage go, a fighter without a pause all through his life’s long and difficult journey.
Oja Winson joined the UJB School Lishamlok as an assistant teacher on August 16, 1983, his work order coming from the Sadar Hills Autonomous District Counci, Kangpokpi, Manipur. He committed himself fully to his vocation thereafter, giving everything he had in him towards the cause of educating children of his remote Lishamlok Village.
Oja Winson was born in 1958 in a middleclass family, and from a very young age, he developed a keen interest for reading books. He was born with a disability that made him weak physically. His thirst for knowledge however gave him mental and spiritual courage and strength. The remoteness of his village also meant appropriate medical treatment was unavailable, and his appeal for government assistance too did not elicit positive response.
Life as a young man was not easy for Oja Winson, bullied and humiliated by his peers he had to live with mental trauma for much of his youthful years. But despite all these adversities, he fought on and never gave up hope and pursued his education.
He passed his HSLC examination under BOSEM in the year 1979 and was placed in the 3rd division. After years of struggle and hard work, he passed B.A. (two year degree) in the year 1985, two years after he received his work order as an assistant teacher of UJB School Leishamlok.
Excerpt from an interview with Oja Winson:
Sorinwon: Sir, when did you start schooling?
Winson: I don’t have exact record, as the education system was different at our time as we got little facilities. However I can recall it was from the year 1985.
Sorinwon: Sir, can you tell us of the struggle and circumstance you have had to face till now?
Winson: Well, it was like the saying of Lishamlok’s elder people “Saluitah ashim Phaolo vitnau manuyeh” (where there is a will there is a way). My eagerness for learning and gaining knowledge from education and my obsession for teaching the uneducated people and children of Lishamlok, inspired me and gave me the necessary energy all throughout.
It is unfortunate that I had the ability to teach only in Lishamlok village due to my physical disability. I would have liked to go further out to the rest of the state if not for my physical limitations.
Sorinwon: Sir, did you get any help from anyone in particular?
Winson: As for the government, inspite of my job as a government teacher, I did not get any assistance. But without the help and support from my friends, relatives and family members, I may not have achieved anything that I have today. I also cannot forget the moral encouragement from two teachers who tutored me before I appeared in the HSLC examination. As a show of gratitude, I paid them a very nominal sum of Rs. 70.
Sorinwon: Sir, tell us a bit about the evolution of education system according to you?
Winson: Well, according to me the education system has changed a lot. During my early days people did not care much about education. Even if they decide to pursue studies, their mindset and wish did not extend much beyond learning the alphabets just so much as to be able to read and write. But fortunately, in time people got to understand the true value of education. In the same spirit, the government too has come up with many policies for education. The system of education has changed formally, and many advanced ideas have been introduced. School infrastructures too have improved from my time, and the mindset of the people towards education too has expanded. Today, poor people can also afford their children education facilities because of welfare governance approach of the Indian system. My opinion is, on the whole, things are looking up, and all of us have to be eager to learn and grow so as to be up to date always with changing times.
The writer is an undergraduate student of GP Women’s College, Imphal. She is enrolled in the “Media and Journalism” one year diploma course conducted by the Free Press School of Journalism, FPSJ, as industry partner of GPWC under RUSA.