Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Another “political solution” needed

Inarguably, the road ahead for school education in Nagaland is paved with many a crater and it will take much more than mere streamlining of the system because the system itself is flawed. And it is flawed because school education ~ a major Government Department, is perceived much like any other Government Department ~ and not as the most vital agency to initiate change in the human development index of the people and state of Nagaland. So over the decades bureaucratization has set in and soon enough this crucial agency became a reservoir of political appointments. The other day, Advisor for School Education had revealed that the present teacher-student ratio in Government schools is 1:8, while the actual requirement is 1:25. Reportedly, he also said that the state’s requirement for teachers is 9000 but 20,000 teachers are appointed in Government Schools. By these figures, students of Government schools should have been at the top of the toppers’ list but as in previous years, several Government schools continue to register zero pass percentage in HSLC examinations. Either the Government’s teacher recruitment system is faulty or there have been blatant and reckless political appointments. The state Government needs to decide which is it ~ however by the Government’s own figures, it is very clear that both the factors have contributed to recruitment of excess teachers and the abysmal results of Government schools in the Board examinations. This then necessarily connotes that because of political calculations and considerations there has excess teachers’ recruitment therefore it now requires political will to clean up the mess political calculations and considerations inevitably engender. Needless to say, our politicians clearly hadn’t prioritized the interest of students and the furtherance of education and human development of the people and state. Unless the Government focuses on this as the core issue of the unacceptable performance of Government schools and embarks on course-correction, no amount of “streamlining” at the peripheral level will see any change. And, as in almost all Government Departments, all deadwood must be gotten rid of. But how would the Government initiate this without inviting litigation and public outcry? Well, the Government would have to revisit the drawing board and study the rationale behind recruitment of excess teachers in the first place ~ perhaps it would then find a way out of the mess it has spawned. If most of these excess recruitments were political in nature, surely our politicians who are masters in politics will find a “political solution”? The point to focus on is why is the state of Nagaland wasting resources on recruiting and paying salaries to excess Government school teachers, who are evidently not performing thereby causing both financial and human resource development loss to the state? There are numerous other issues related to the poor performance of Government schools that need immediate attention also but they too can be resolved only with political will, not by cosmetic systemic and organizational changes. This then calls for unambiguous state Education Policy that should be implemented unequivocally. As in all other issues, our greatest impediment lies in non-implementation ~ and worse still, poor and awry implementation ~ let’s call it “mis-implementation”. Further, it would serve us ~ particularly students ~ well, if the policy of setting up village education boards is revisited. At least on the issue of education, communitization clearly has numerous limitations and loopholes ~ however good the intentions. Most times, the conflict between intentions and human nature is incompatible and the latter, more often than not, is intractable. This is the very reason why the practice of proxy teachers is rampant ~ as also proxy nurses and so many other proxies, starting with proxy voting. “Streamlining” school education ~ indeed all other education ~ is direly needed in Nagaland but it has to be from the nucleus, not peripheral, which means stepping on many toes, upsetting numerous apple-carts and infuriating a large number of people at the top and those down below. Does our School Education Department have the courage of conviction, clarity of purpose and the strength of character to do what must be done keeping in mind that if the already mounting mess is not cleaned up now, later it will be un-cleanable ~ forever condemning our children, especially from the most vulnerable sections of society, to a dark un-lettered future?