Manipur declared its first (Covid-19) lockdown on 24th March 2020. Since then, students in Manipur have lost about 340 school days, tallying roughly to 900 class hours from 150 full school days. The days and hours continue to increase even as we write this. These alarming numbers are a cause of worry among parents, students and the learning institutions, particularly in Ukhrul District. However, the state government seems to be absolutely unbothered by this fact.
Meanwhile, the closure of learning institutions has had a negative impact on the school-going students and youth in the community. There has been drastic increase in cases of substance abuse, and physical assaults among others. The District Hospital (Ukhrul) records an increase of registered OST (Opioid Substitution Therapy) patients, an overall increase of 240% in 2020 as compared to 2019. More specifically, there is an increase of 516.7% in patients from 18 to 20 years, and 452.2% in patients of 21 to 25 years of age. But this is not the threat we are bracing against. Rather, it is the unaccounted (larger) number of patients under 18 years who come seeking for OST and get turned away as OST cannot be administered to minors. It is an obvious fact that these rise in the numbers are directly and indirectly related to the closure of learning institutions in the district.
The valley-based community are well equipped to mitigate or compensate the impact of Covid-19 in the sphere of education. However, the hill districts are left to fend for themselves with poorly equipped means and resources. While online classes were substituted for offline, the hill districts have no online facilities. One must understand that valley-based students can afford private tuition unlike those in the hill districts. Adding to the woes is the inconsistent electricity and network connectivity that make online learning almost impossible.
It is an accepted truth that children and youth in their formative years are best moulded in learning institutions. That leaves us to question the government’s motive behind prolonging the closure of learning institutions. Is the government trying to destroy or protect the young generation?
As per the Unlock 5.0 MHA’s Orders, dated 30th September 2020, each state across the country was entrusted the responsibility and the flexibility regarding re-opening of schools. Entrusted with this flexibility, instead, the Director of Education, Government of Manipur issued an order [order no. A0/174/5A/2021(2) – DE(S), dated 20th January 2021] directing all school authorities to immediately stop the admission process for new academic session under the pretext of maintaining a ‘uniform academic calendar’.
While we fully understand the precaution taken by the government, we would like to bring the state government’s attention that Ukhrul District, in particular, is a green zone with zero active Covid-19 positive cases, and that all activities have returned to normal. So, why are learning institutions still directed to further hold the admission process? Should children and youth be left unguarded and unprotected from the evils of the society? Who would, then, be responsible for the academic losses meted out to the thousands of students in Ukhrul?
Under whose expense is the state government prolonging these irrevocable and irreplaceable academic losses? The Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong shall no longer remain a mute spectator. Learning must not stop at any cost! The state government shall not lobby the right to education. Further delaying it would be deemed holding a vested interest in ‘uniform academic session’.
The Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong, therefore, urge the Directorate of Education(S), Government of Manipur to revoke the previous order and issue a new order to facilitate the opening of the new academic sessions at the earliest. Meanwhile, the TKS urges all the learning institutions to stay prepared with the best approaches to resume academic activities keeping in view the prevailing Covid-19 situation.
No one has the right to jeopardise the lives and careers of students – not us, not the government.
A joint press release by the Presidents of Tangkhul Naga Long, Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong, Tangkhul Shanao Long, Tangkhul Mayar Ngala Long and Tangkhul Wungnao Long.