Transition of Teaching - Learning process among the Nagas

Khriekesanuo Metha
Assistant Professor SJC (A), Dept of Sociology

Educational institutions either formal or informal have existed in every society which are means to impart knowledge to the future generations. Even before the coming of the Britishers to Nagaland, the Nagas already had organised educational systems of their own. These institutions were seen in the social institution of the Morung. The Morung was not just dormitories for young girls and boys but it was a learning institution where young men and damsels were taught all the essential skills to fulfil the required needs for continued existence. The American Baptist Missionaries introduced the formal educational institutions in Nagaland where children were taught not just the basic skills of life but were also taught of the broader aspects of life and the world. 

Education is a lifelong process which starts from birth and continues throughout an individual’s life till death. The concept of education involves both the process of teaching and learning. They are closely related and they go hand in hand with each other. Teaching cannot take place without learning and learning cannot take without teaching. Men and its continuous existence with their enlightenment over the ages have led to the development and establishment of their educational institutions.

The Morung was an aged-old and the only organised means of imparting knowledge, skills, customs and traditions to the next younger generation of the Nagas. It was the highest institution of the traditional Naga village where every members of the village were taught of the social, cultural, economic, political and religious ways of life. It was here that the youths of the village learned about the myths, legends, folklores, songs and dances of the village through oral traditions. The Morung was either set up at the village entrance or at a strategic location where the village could be well guarded. Every village had its own Morung. 

Boys and girls had different dormitory where they were taught different virtues and proficiency for living in the society. Girls were taught the important ethics and virtues which they would require later on in their life when they get married. They learned the art of making pottery, brewing of rice for drinks, cooking, preservation of grains and seeds, cultivation- from plantation to harvest. Girls also learned the art of winding cotton into yarn which was used to weave cloths for their family members. Boys were taught the art of war which was the most important because as men it was the foremost obligation to protect the village and its members from the attacks of their enemies. Apart from that they also learned to master the art of hunting, handicrafts, woodcarving, basket making and buildings. They were also taught important virtues such as the dignity of labour, bravery, discipline and respect.

The Morung was a glorious hall used not only as the bachelors’ dormitory but was an educational training institute for the youth members of the village. It was a place where celebration of important festivals of the village took place. It was an important educational institution and as a member of the village it was mandatory for every child of the village to leave their parental home to join the Morung after reaching a certain age where they were taught the virtues and skills required for life. It can be said that it was a unique place for learning in the indigenous Naga society before the coming of modern schools and colleges. 

The Morung was like any other modern educational institution of today. No written examinations were conducted however, the youths had to learn and master a wide range of skills and knowledge to accomplish their needs required for survival. There were different stages of education and training where the youths of the village were required to get through one stage to get to the next stage. Children would join the Morung as junior members and on reaching certain age and passing through various trainings they would be promoted as senior members and continue with their education in the Morung. On reaching the marriageable age and only after completing their education they could leave the Morung on a permanent basis and start a family of their own. 

Till today, the Morung which are the glorious halls of the Naga educational institutions are preserved in various villages and are used by the members of the village during various occasions in the village such as festivals and other purposes but are no longer used as exclusive educational institutions among the Nagas.

The drive towards modernity with the school as its propelling force has replaced and weakened the traditional role of Morung as an active learning institution. Therefore, it would not be entirely unfounded argument if one were to question the relevance of Morung in modern context. As mentioned above, the overall function of the Morung was closely circled with the cultural, social, moral, economic and religious life of the Naga society and was directly or indirectly related to mutual benefits of the community. Therefore, while Morung as a center of active learning has declined with the passage of time, the symbolic power it hols over the community, and its essence and norms are still followed by the community. Again, as a learning institution, Morung can be equated with a school in modern parlance for a ‘village republic’. Analogously, the community tends to hold both the institutions in high reverence. 

The Nagas have come a long way in terms of education from the traditional Morung system of education to the formal education system introduced by the American Baptist Missionaries to the technological era of education. Both the informal and formal means of imparting knowledge are equally important and they proffer different strength and value to a career path. It is important to catch-up to the fast changing world but one must also adhere the importance of the traditional means of imparting education, values, customs and traditions. Today formal modern education is incorporating the traditional values, customs and even languages. The fundamental purpose of education remains the same. Only the needs of the people have changed over the years. In fact modern education is a more organised system of traditional education. One cannot assume or conclude that one method of imparting knowledge is better than the other. It depends entirely on the individual’s will and determination to learn. Society is in a state of flux. Change is bound to happen. Likewise, educational system needs to adapt, invent and innovate certain means to meet the needs of present existing societies.