A news item which was a leading headline in the past week in Manipur involved the suspension of some school teachers who were found absent at their schools when Manipur Education Minister, S Rajen paid a surprise visit.
Eight teachers posted at Lamdeng Government High School were suspended for not attending school on February 23. The teachers were found absent when Education Minister, S Rajen paid a surprise visit at Lamdeng Government High School where all the eight teachers are presently posted. The school is in Imphal West district and under Lamsang Assembly Constituency which the Education Minister represents in the Manipur Legislative Assembly.
Further, 11 more Manipur government school teachers have been placed under suspension for not attending school. Orders were issued in this regard by the Directorate of Education(S) on February 24. The suspended teachers include nine from Lamlong Higher Secondary School in Imphal East District and two from Khonghampat High School.
Reports said nine teachers of Lamlong Higher Secondary School were found absent when a surprise visit was conducted at the school by a team led by the Education Minister on February 23. In continuation of the routine visits and inspection of schools, S Rajen paid surprise visits at Khongampat Government High School, Heibongpokpi Government High School and Khurkhul High School on February 24. The minister also inspected the infrastructures of the schools.
Reports quoting the Education Minister said that the surprise visits will continue and cover the remaining districts as well. The minister also appealed to all school staffs to be dutiful and sincere in their service at this juncture since the Board and Council exams are knocking at the door. He also urged the teachers to work in the interest of the students’ community in the state.
It may be mentioned that the Education Minister had already warned of punitive action against teachers who are found absent from schools and colleges in a statement he had made in the last week of January. The Education Minister has also already said that surprise visits to schools and colleges will continue in order to ensure strict compliance of the orders issued by the department.
A day after schools reopened in Manipur on January 27 for classes 9 and above, after almost a gap of one year without any activity, Education Minister S Rajen on January 28 made an inspection visit at different schools in Imphal West district.
Speaking to media persons during the inspections, Education Minister S Rajen said that appropriate action would be taken against teaching and non-teaching staff found absent during school hours. During his visit, staff and students attendance were checked to ensure that proper classroom activity is not neglected.
The minister also appealed to the teachers, guardians, students and civil organisations to cooperate in the new initiative of the government on the reopening of educational institutions in the state.
The minister conveyed his appreciation to the school staff, students, guardians, and officials of the education department for their willingness and cooperation in reopening of the educational institutions.
This was the first inspection visit conducted by the newly appointed education minister and the schools he visited included, Recent Higher Secondary, Sabaltongba; Awangkhunou Government High School; Langjing Government High School; Manipur Institute of Technology, MIT; Kebol Government High School, Tera; Model Higher Secondary School; Ibotonsana Higher Secondary School, Uripok; Lilasing Khongnagkhong Government High School.
Meanwhile, it is well known that the government schools except a handful have failed to provide quality education to children in the state. Many government schools have students who cannot get through the Class 10 board examinations. Therefore the vacum is filled by the private schools where the parents who are sometimes even daily wage earners send their children bearing extra financial burden.
Here, it may be pertinent to raise some questions regarding the failure of schools education in Manipur. Will the Education Minister’s surprise visit cure the inconsistencies that plague the Manipur government schools? Can the Education Minister visit all the government schools so that action against the teachers who are found absent is taken? Are not the headmasters/principals responsible for the attendance of the teachers? Are not the Zonal Education Officers and their subordinate education officers responsible for the failure of the schools? What made the headmasters/principals unable to take action against the absenting teachers? Will the Education Minister join the micromanagement of the schools?
These are only few of the questions to ponder on concerning the improvement desired at the government schools, besides infrastructures of the schools, without which quality education cannot be achieved.
There are many officers in the schools education directorate, with even categorisation as hills and valley schools, when in fact there are only about 330 government and government-aided high and higher secondary schools. Majority of the high and higher secondary education in Manipur is in the domain of private schools where the government has no direct role in administration and management. And why is the schools education department, having separate officers responsible for hills and valley, failing to ensure schools are run smoothly and also not able to earn the trust of the parents to send their children to these government schools?
There is a systemic failure in the education department of Manipur. A system must be set in place first to bring the government schools to a level of normal schools before thinking of quality education in Manipur. From recruitment of teachers to posting and administration, political influence and pressures should not be allowed to play any part. Any decision or action in connection with education should be done selflessly.
So the Education Minister should set a better system in place to begin with instead of paying surprise visits in the name of education reforms.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics