Mission Education : A Pending Project

 

By  Shalabas Syiemlieh 

We live in challenging times… As of 2012, according to the Reserve Bank of India, about 22% of total state population is below the poverty line, with 12.5% from rural Meghalaya; and 9.3% from the urban area. This shocking reality paint a bleak picture in newspapers and on our television screens. It can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook on the future, to look past the urgent problems that we all face now towards a new horizon for the next generation…

Mission Education is our initiative to get every underprivileged child in the state of Meghalaya into school and learning. Run by the Meghalaya Atheists Society (MAS), Mission Education aims to mobilise thousands to help ensure Free Education is a lasting legacy. We continue to call on fellow atheists to make this project a reality for the thousands of underprivileged children in Meghalaya.

Education is the key to giving us this vision. Children have a remarkable capacity for positivity and energy. They hold strong hopes and dreams that can, if nurtured and developed, play a huge role in forming both strong individuals and strong communities.

Good quality free education can deliver almost immeasurable positive results for wider society, helping to shape citizens who are healthier, more productive, and active within their communities. Education will not only give us tomorrow’s doctors, nurses, teachers and leaders – but also healthy mothers, responsible fathers and engaged citizens.

For the Society members, there is no time to waste. This means considering innovative financing solutions to donate for the underprivileged children in the state to attend school. Members must focus their efforts on what works. What matters are the tools that can deliver right at the sharp end of education: teachers, books and a school. In a lagging state like Meghalaya, legislators must be absolutely clear that they recognize education as the cornerstone of development in the state.

Our Goal:

A life without education is a life half-lived. When people cannot read or write, when they do not have the skills and abilities that a good quality education offers, they are condemned to a life of poverty, ill-health and social exclusion. This disadvantage gets handed down through generations. The underprivileged children of illiterate parents are more vulnerable to a range of serious threats and problems that can scar their lives forever. And it is not only individuals who suffer – the state as a whole is also affected.

The other side of the story is that children who do go to school and learn are healthier, better-nourished, and live longer and more prosperous lives than those who are excluded. When children attend school they become aware of their own potential in the world, and are equipped with the life skills necessary to make informed choices and live well in society. Education also promotes tolerance and understanding between people – both individually and on a national level. Ultimately this leads to greater political participation, stability and transparency, strengthened democratic systems, and a reduction in corruption.

As per the 2011 Census, as many as 7.8 million children in India are forced to earn a livelihood even while attending school, while 84 million children don’t go to school at all. Working in shops, as ragpickers or employed in petty jobs, these children usually belong to families that land up in big cities in search of a livelihood. And before they know, their childhood is lost in oblivion. Despite the Right to Education Act, such children face immense discrimination. We at Meghalaya Atheists Society through the All Meghalaya Atheists’ and Humanists’ Project are here to change this. And in the ongoing effort to achieve our goal, it is also vital that we supply reliable information regarding what the priority issues are to be targeted.

Misleading information in the media:

Talk about a bad day: That’s how you’d feel if a computer hacker managed to gain access to your personal computer and steal your confidential documents as it happened with me last year. Yes, it may seem that hackers primarily attack companies and corporations, but the truth is that they can also target your computer just as easily. Of course, they can’t do anything until they get “inside” your computer, but there are plenty of ways they can make that happen.

On the January 5, 2019, several confidential documents relating to the project saved in password protected hard drives were stolen and manipulated. The hacker, who chats by the screen name of kupar_incognito, gained access to my personal computer by a program called “Sub7” (or SubSeven). The unfortunate happened when Sub7 got into my computer via my personal email. And on the 30th of March 2019, manipulated versions of the project proposal was published on several pages on Facebook and even landed on front pages of registered media outlets such as Rupang and Wyrta to mislead the people.

The whole hacking and leaking episode began after a minor argument that took place in a chatroom #ProjectExpose available at the Dark Web. The hacker, who is the moderator of a whistleblowing platform on Facebook (Thad Madan) threatened to leak a classified 26 minute video of the fake encounter of someone by the name of Fullmoon Dhar which he acquired by inappropriate means. The argument started when the hacker took the name of a police official (an honest and distantly related cousin) accusing him of being involved in the act in an attempt to defame and tarnish his reputation.

The misleading information that was circulated by Rupang and Wyrta showed the total strength of the Society to be 9,089; whereas the actual number (as of 12.08.2020) is just 500. Moreover, the newspapers had also displayed the budget to be a whopping Rs. 45,44,50,000 and the donation amount as Rs. 50,000 per member; while the actual budget till date is only 5 crore. Even the dates were manipulated to mislead and misinform the people of Meghalaya.

Mission Education – a distant dream:

The responsibility for achieving our goal rests primarily with members. Indeed 100% of the funds that have been collected, have come from society members alone. This article reveals just how far we are from the distant dream of a full and life-enhancing education for all underprivileged children in Meghalaya. While the benefits of education could not be more apparent, it still receives too little political priority on the state development agenda.

Recently, education minister Lahkmen Rymbui said, “teacher training, infrastructure improvement and curriculum upgrade” are on the current government’s agenda. But we all know that’s easier said than done. In a state which needs investment and attention to education the most, Meghalaya government continues to neglect its obligations and fail to take the steps needed to secure quality education for its people. In other states of the country, governments have made remarkable efforts but have been left high and dry by corrupt politicians that have abandoned or sidelined their commitments.

Education in Meghalaya must take centre-stage in the effort to drive sustainable and equitable recovery from the financial and economic crises. A massive reinvigoration of effort, together with investment and innovation is needed to ensure that our state does not falter on the road to ensuring that every underprivileged child in the state of Meghalaya can benefit from the light and hope that education offers.

(The writer is a computer programmer and teacher. He can be reached at [email protected])

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