Vikepelhu Lucas Meyase
It was 5 September 2012. I was sitting along with the VIPs on the dais enjoying the thousands of students and teachers enthusiastically jam-packed in the NBCC Convention Centre Kohima when I felt SMS alerts in my pocket. Trying to behave gentlemanly, I ignored them, only wishing that the Teachers’ Day celebration will be a great success. This was going to be my last Teachers’ Day celebration as an officer of the department, and I didn’t want to see any failure.
The honourable minister who was the chief guest of the day, my respected commissioner & secretary and all the other dignitaries spoke highly of the teachers; praises and thanks poured out in huge volumes. My humble self was in deep thought thinking, “Today, we as teachers are getting great applause, but tomorrow, all these would vanish in thin air.” After the vote of thanks proposed by me, the crowd dispersed, and we wished each other Happy Teachers’ Day and came away. Thereafter, I took out my phone to check the messages, and lo, I received a text from a lady doctor posted outside Nagaland who sent me sweet wishes and thanks saying, “I am what I am today because of you”. Tears of joy rolled down my cheeks as I reminisced— it was nearly 40 years ago when I taught this young girl and many others. I realized that the cream of my youth spent as a teacher for 11 years had not been in vain.
For a graduate in the 70’s to remain a teacher was not considered dignified, though one might have taken up teaching as a hobby. Often, we were asked, “Are you still a teacher?” meaning to say, “Have you not got any better job?” It might have been due to the low salary then. But today, teachers are the highest paid among the class III government employees when measured from the scale.
Then came my day to say goodbye to my colleagues with whom I had worked intimately for 32 years and a half. My generous and experienced friends advised me to start my pension papers while still in ‘power’ by using my subordinates to get things done. However, I would tell them, “I was a teacher, I am a teacher, and I will be a teacher in the future too”, that I would start the process only after my retirement and pursue it by myself, and then only could I learn and teach others. It was no doubt a hazardous task to approach as many as 14 financial institutions/banks and half a dozen offices/departments besides my own and the Accountant General (AG) for clearance. But wherever I went, I came across past pupils who were either officers or responsible clerks and who happily ran towards me enquiring what had brought me there. They immediately took my papers and asked me not to trouble myself in coming back, meaning that they themselves would do everything for me. And sure enough, within no time all my papers were ready to be sent to AG. One day, incidentally, I met another lady past pupil working in AG. As we talked, she asked if my pension papers were done. When I said it was still with the department, she told me it would be enough to let her know the receipt number, and that she would take care of the rest. When my papers reached AG, the dak-runner of the department in the Secretariat faithfully gave me the receipt number, which I immediately forwarded to the lady asking her when I should come. She replied that the normal procedure would take about two months and asked me not to come as she’d let me know when the need arose. Within two months everything was cleared, and as she communicated to me, the treasury office set everything ready for what I was entitled to get.
On an earlier occasion, with a new Bolero allotted to me by the department, I had gone down to Dimapur to get additional fittings. As the work progressed, the proprietor entertained me with tea and snacks in his air-conditioned room and provided me with newspapers and magazines. He told me to make myself comfortable and left for some other works. After some time, his manager informed me that my works were done. As I took out my wallet to pay the bill at the counter, to my amazement, the proprietor had already instructed him not to charge anything from me as I was his high school teacher and tutor. Embarrassed (as it was not a few hundreds but a large amount of money), I had to get his mobile number and express my gratitude to him.
Again, there were times whenIor my family members had been admitted to hospitals or undergone major operations. But in all these, except for the medicine cost, no cabin or surgical charges were needed to be paid because of what the doctors are today and in gratitude for what I was to them several years ago in school.
I acknowledge all the love and assistance I have received, but not restricting my appreciation to only these, today I am happy and proud to see so many of my past pupils occupying high and responsible positions in all walks of life. I can only say I am enjoying the fruits of my labour and I am both grateful and humbled by that.
The responsibilities being shouldered by the teachers in our institutions are great, complex, and subtle, and to shoulder all with the highest sacrifice and dedication on the part of the teachersis difficult, because other lower creatures can be trained by punishments etc., but the young students — the future leaders of our country —are to be trained with the greatest care, understanding, and above all, LOVE, that only a man or a woman can give. Thus, teachers hold the most important job in molding the future leaders. They are, therefore, rightly called builders of tomorrow’s leaders, the backbones of our nation etc. Teachers do deserve such honour.
Today we need professional teachers who can devote their lives for the cause of education. We need teachers who can really be interested in their honourable duty. Until and unless we find one who is really interested and volunteer to be a professional teacher, education cannot be improved. Modern education is too costly and too fast — for instance, if we look on the side of scientific development, the inventions of the present century have doubled up those of the past and it is expected to double up further within a very short time. How can we march together with others? Who can train a child to be honest without the sense of corruption? To me, primarily, school education can answer these questions.
Dear teachers, the fruits of hard labour, dedication and self-sacrifice are never lost. What teachers teach today are personified in their students tomorrow. On the occasion of Teachers’ Day, I urge every teacher to rededicate themselves to this noble calling. Happy Teachers’ Day!
(This write up was first published in 2015. Meyase retired as Director of School Education in 2013 and passed away on August 17, 2021)