By Bijoya Sawian
On June 12th 1897 Shillong collapsed under the fury of the Great Earthquake. Three days after the tragedy, Mr. Arbuthnot, the Deputy Commissioner sent a Bengali official to see how his friend was faring. So the Senior EAC, Sadya Charan Das , waded through the debris and reached Umsohsun. He found Jeebon Roy sitting under a make-shift tent, his house in shambles, his family sheltered in the chicken coops. The official noticed a piece of paper on the table in front of a calm and resolute Jeebon Roy. On it two words were boldly written-TRY AGAIN.
When Babu Jeebon Roy passed away on May 16 1903 one dream of his had been realized: higher education had been established in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. He had great faith in his people. He was unwavering in his belief that good education was the only stumbling block they had to overcome to move ahead and stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of India. For him education was the single most important asset in a person’s progress in life because it freed one from the shackles of ignorance and also because “nobody can ever take it away.”Jeebon Roy worked relentlessly towards the realization of this goal. In 1878 he started the first High School in Shillong after a long and arduous struggle.
He had studied only up to Class VI because that was all that was available in these hills. But his education continued at home under his father, Ram Sing Jaid Rani and tutors. As his mind imbibed and expanded having savoured the fruits of his learning, he knew that his mission in life was to spread higher education. In 1875 he started corresponding with the Provincial Government about setting up a High School. The Government refused on grounds that Shillong had just undergone the trauma of the plague and there were no funds available. Jeebon Roy was disappointed and started negotiations with Rev T Jerman Jones of the Welsh Methodist Calvinistic Presbyterian Mission. Rev Jerman Jones remarked that Khasis were not ready for education beyond Class VI. The two responses alarmed him and made him more determined. He approached the Assam Government with his proposition with the promise that all deficit would be borne by him. His plea fell on deaf ears. Eventually, he donated a sum of nine hundred rupees and constructed a school known as the Zillah High School, in the area where the Telegraph Office stood till recently. The school was inaugurated on September 2 1878 and registered fifty students. Seeing the success of the school Rev Jerman Jones realized his mistake and directed that from the following session the Mission Minor School at Mawkhar should be converted to a Proceeding High School and amalgamated with the Zilla High School and liberal funds should be sanctioned. In 1880 this was completed and the Shillong Government High School, the gateway to higher education in our hills, was established.
Now as we remember him a hundred and twelve years later the message one would like to give to the youth is ‘iai minot’, persevere, for that was his motto. “Persevere, never give up. Try, try again… and remember it is not only the result that is important but also the entire journey, step by step, towards your goal.”
Education is the fount of character, of courage and of understanding .It does not begin and end with books, brilliant results and lucrative jobs. Education is a vast experience, a never ending journey of discovery into the world of knowledge, wisdom and truth. A truly educated man is one who can think and act correctly no matter where he studied, what marks he scored, what career he chose and how much he earns. He stands out by his ability to differentiate between right and wrong and by his strength to ride the storm in times of crisis; how he copes with trials and tribulations and defeat determines the measure of his success.
The word education is derived from the Latin educatio which means ‘bringing up, breeding, rearing ‘.It is a holistic experience like a parent bringing up a child. A good teacher would not simply pour information into a child’s head as if it was an empty vessel. The teacher should be the guide, the awakener, the person who instills the joy of learning within the child. This is very important before introducing the child to books and syllabus and examinations! If education is meant to prepare a child for the future then most certainly the child must feel that the future – life itself is worth living.
Our present educational system, archaic ,dismal and in desperate need for change, is based on Lord Macaulay’s Minute on Education which he formulated in 1835. Before that he had written to his superiors in England, “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one beggar who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country unless we break the very backbone of this nation which is her spiritual and cultural heritage. Therefore ,I propose that we replace the old and ancient education system, her culture, for if all the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them to be, a truly dominated nation.” Macaulay’s Minute was later perfected in Sir Charles Wood’s Dispatch in 1854. This concept of education was introduced mainly to make the Indian officials learn adequate English and be literate and efficient enough to be able to function in the Administration. That was it. The minds were geared to cram and swallow information, transfer it to paper and follow orders .This inadequate and simplistic system of ‘education’ was only to serve the purpose of the British rulers. Most of our children end up ‘just being another brick in the wall’.
There is so much of talent and promise among the youth in Meghalaya. What they lack is focus, the right guidance to tap their inborn talent and most of all-they lack confidence. Confidence is all about being sure of oneself. It brings out the best in a child; in anybody for that matter. This is where identity comes in. Identity is what you are. It could be a social, political, cultural, educational or a geographical identity; just feeling good being a Shillongite for example. The strong sense of knowing who you are helps in building up confidence. Confidence and self esteem are the precursors to growth, progress and evolution. The young live in a brave new world. They can even rewrite the rules and redefine themselves. You are the masters of your destiny and infinite possibilities. Don’t fritter these precious years away.
Coming to careers, every single job is important and has to done and completed properly for the smooth running of society. If you are willing to learn and to work no one can stop you .If you don’t want, no one can help you. Reaching ‘the top’ simply means having done one’s best. Be confident of what you are doing and say, “I am a peon/a carpenter/a mason/an electrician/a domestic help/a taxi driver,( whatever you are). I am the best in town .I am not a wastrel .I contribute towards my family and community.” If you do that -you have already won the first round hands down and you should be proud of yourself. Education is not meant to prepare you only to make a living but also how to live .Learning is a never ending process for knowledge is a never-ending story. Iai Minot.