‘Education dept too complex for easy solutions’

SHILLONG, March 21: Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma on Tuesday told the Assembly that there is no quick-fix solution to education as it is one of the most complex departments in the state.
The complexity has increased with political issues connected to it, he said.
“We realised in the last five years that education is the most complex department in our state because of the manner in which different systems were created to resolve certain problems in a piecemeal manner,” Sangma said in his reply to the discussion on the Governor’s address in the House.
He said various steps taken to set things right led to making the system even more complicated.
Insisting that there is no instant solution to the issues in the department, he said political and social factors have added to the complications.
The issues include the lopsided teacher-student ratio across educational institutions. Some schools have too many teachers and some have too few when the number of students is considered, he said.
“But we realised we needed to start somewhere to untie all the knots,” Sangma said.
“We started off with simple processes where we looked at how the ad hoc and SSA teachers could be taken care of, how the training would be given to them, and how the rationalisation of schools and teachers will take place,” he said.
The CM said many reforms were undertaken and these included a decision to set up an education commission to monitor the sector and suggest improvements in a professional, neutral, and apolitical manner.
“As suggested by the members, we would want the best of the best educationists and reformists to be part of this education commission so that we are able to slowly and steadily resolve the issue,” he said.
Sangma further informed the House that the state has close to 15,000 institutions and 50,000 teachers in the state.
“Manipur, which is comparable to Meghalaya in terms of geography and population, has 4,000 schools and colleges and about one-third the number of teachers we have,” he said.
“In SSA, we have close to 12,000 teachers whereas Manipur has 3,000. These are the realities we have to face. But we are not shying away from the challenges,” he said.
The chief minister pointed out many people generalise without understanding the difference between a government LP school and an ad hoc school. “The ad hoc schools are run by managing committees which have the responsibility to pay the salaries of the ad hoc or SSA teachers from the grants we give,” he said. “All teachers are important but we need to understand they are in different categories and the government is directly responsible for the salaries of certain teachers and indirectly for ad hoc and SSA teachers,” he explained.
Sangma also said the state government has started the process of repairing the LP schools for the first time.
“We have 1,755 government LP schools and some of them have never been repaired for 30-40 years while some are without tins, doors, and windows. In the last government, we built 400-plus new school buildings or upgraded (the existing ones) and sanctioned Rs 3-8 lakh for basic repairs depending on the condition of the structure,” he said.
“The mining cess collected specifically for education was never used for education. It was only the previous MDA government which utilised the cess for the purpose for which it was collected,” he said, informing the House that the government collects Rs 60-100 crore annually from the mining cess.
The UDP’s Nongpoh legislator, Mayralborn Syiem highlighted the plight of the teachers in the state. In his response, Education Minister Rakkam A. Sangma said the services of the teachers appointed by the deputy inspector of schools prior to 2007 have been regularized. This saw 1,985 teachers posted in government LP schools and 461 in non-government schools.
Syiem sought to know if the government would take steps for the teachers who missed out on regularisation. He also said some aggrieved teachers met him to say the school authorities would not be regularising their service.
The education minister said he was not aware of the issue but assured that it would be examined.
But the CM said Syiem raised a pertinent point and agreed that the teachers have been suffering for a very long time. “That is why the first MDA government took the decision to regularise the jobs of the 461 non-government LP school teachers,” he said.
The issues of other teachers would gradually be resolved, he assured and urged the Nongpoh MLA to share relevant documents with the government.
The VPP’s Nongkrem, Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit asked about the mode of appointment of these teachers before they were regularized.
“All the teachers were appointed on an ad hoc basis or temporarily prior to 2007. The teachers were appointed according to their qualifications by the deputy inspector of schools of the district concerned,” Rakkam Sangma said.
Such exercises will not be repeated, he added.

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