Shifting the power imbalance

Aheli Moitra

Who benefits when the masses remain uneducated and uninformed?

On April 29, students of Phek Town, led by the Chakhesang Students’ Union and other civil society organizations of the area, marched through the Town’s streets to protest the lack of teachers at the Phek Government Higher Secondary School. Since 2004, that is, for the past 15 years, the School has operated with a shortage of teachers. At the current juncture, 11 teacher posts remain vacant at the School. Teachers have been transferred, promoted and retired without replacing them. The Chakhesang Students’ Union warned that if the leak is not plugged, the School could well be defunct by next year.

A large section of Nagaland’s children are dependent on public schools because their parents cannot afford the luxury of private schooling. If this bulk of the State’s future does not get basic schooling, obviously they will have no option for higher education. They will never be informed enough about their social, economic, political rights nor will they know the means to secure them. At best, they will be able to secure themselves a survival.

But who cares if government schools in Phek Town, or even across Nagaland State, are poorly run? For politicians, the best case scenario unfurls when they have an electorate that does not understand why elections are held, how they are to be conducted and for what purpose. It helps to have an ill-educated and ill-informed electorate that can be manipulated to ensure a deceitful politician’s prolonged reign, or used by his opponents to usurp the same power without any corresponding benefit to the electorate’s future.

Then there are the rich and the middle class sections of society. If those at the bottom of the socio-economic-political ladder start getting good primary, secondary and higher education, who will work as exploited labour in their industries and homes so that the children of the rich and the middle class may study in private schools, get jobs and profit from the labour of the unschooled?

The problem of Phek Town’s schools is not Phek Town’s alone. Just like the issue of a Konyak child (domestic labour) getting beaten in an employer’s home is not an issue of the Konyak community’s alone. These issues are interconnected and affect the poor and marginalized people in all towns, villages and communities. As citizens of a country that is bound by a Constitution, at least as of now, that guarantees the right to education, it is important that those who have the privilege of knowing and understanding these rights speak for (and with) those who cannot. The power imbalance, then, can be shifted in a manner that pushes forward the entire society for purposeful progress in the economic and political arena.

It starts with a measure as small as ensuring enough teachers are at the disposal of students at the Phek Government Higher Secondary School, or ensuring that Konyak children have schools that help them to eventually eradicate poverty among their people.

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