Corona viruses are a large family of viruses that causes illness ranging from common cold to more severe diseases. A novel corona virus (nCov) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ stands for virus, and ‘D’ stands for disease, hence the terminology ‘Covid-19’. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel corona virus’ or ‘2019 nCov’. The official names COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 were issued by the WHO on 11 February, 2020. This name was given because the virus is genetically related to the corona virus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different.
How does the virus spread in Manipur?
The first Covid-19 positive case in Manipur was confirmed on March 24, 2020. She had returned to Manipur from UK. She was tested positive on her return to the state and treated at the Jawarharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS), Imphal. The 23-year-old woman who was found to have tested positive for Covid-19 with overseas travel history was then later again reported or found to be negative for the virus where she was discharged from the hospital as she was recovered completely after successful treatment.
The state reported its first Covid-19 death on July 29, 2020 who was a 56-year-old man. He succumbed to the disease at the Regional Institute of Medical Science (RIMS), Imphal. Since then the cases for Covid-19 continues to rise in the state which resulted in the announcement of complete curfew in most parts of the districts and extension of lockdown in the state.
How does the pandemic affect the people of Manipur?
The COVID-19 death toll in Manipur reached 793 and the positive cases reached 49,882 with a recovery number of 40,607, as per the updates by JHU CSSE COVID-19 Data as of May 31, 2021 . It has now been more than a year and a half, 14 months since the pandemic had worsened last year by March- causing difficulties to the masses where everyone is fighting for survival and coping to live with the pandemic. The greatest global crisis since after World War II, it really is a blow of adversity where millions lost their lives, countless number becomes homeless and jobless. Consequently, tens of thousands of people goes to sleep empty stomach as they have no source of income and work to feed their hungry families, waiting only to die of hunger; which reflects the inhumane situation faced by them, which they have no control over it but to face and fight the irony of life. While it would not be an exaggeration to point out that the present circumstances pointed out in the later may not be much a problem for the rich and able, having regular source of income with unlimited supply of daily necessities and essential commodities to continue thriving amidst this pandemic.
The government may have already taken all possible steps yet not all possible people have been reached by these helps and schemes given, and tens of thousands still remain unattended, with no medical treatment given and no proper supply of essential commodities to live on. Moreover, the pandemic had given us a new lifestyle, in a way that we never think. It has brought families together to sit down together, and enjoy the wonder and comfort of their home and surrounding environment which for many was not made possible before because of the tight and monotonous daily work schedule, before the pandemic.
While the spread of the untamed-pandemic stroke and quiver all over the world, hampering people's lives in a total pandemonium, with profuse news- both certitude and forgery, fluttering in from copious angles and the surging number of proliferating deaths, confirmed and active cases reported everyday in the television news shows, social media's goes without saying- with graveyards flooded like the 'Khwairamband market' in a hustle-bustle manner as was always, devaluing the value or worth of life- leading to loss of thousands of lives within a blink of an eye. The world is at stake- wherever, whoever and whatever it may be, we are at stake.
How does it affect the students of Manipur?
But amidst all these various issues, what in my opinion effects the most- not necessarily in the present but for the time to come, is the future and career of the young learners in our country, particularly here in our state, Manipur. The COVID -19 pandemic has affected the educational system worldwide, leading to the closure of schools, universities and colleges. The closure of these educational institutions not only interrupts the teaching for students; the closure also coincides with a key assessment period and many exams have been postponed or cancelled. The Board of Secondary Education Manipur and the Council of Higher Secondary Education Manipur had lately released a notification regarding the indefinite postponement of the exams for classes 10 and 12 respectively. As a result of which many students now lost their interest and their keen to learn and prepare themselves for the said exams. Internal assessment is perhaps thought to be less important and may have been cancelled. It is also possible that some student career might be benefit from the interruption. The global lockdown of educational institutions is going to cause major (and likely unequal) interruption in students' learning; disruptions, internal assessments and the cancellation of public assessment for qualifications or their replacement by an inferior alternative. It has been estimated to affect around 600 million learners across the world- the school going students in particular.
The big question here is- What can be done to mitigate the negative impacts faced by the students in Manipur?
Despite where thousands of competitive minded students in most part of the country, accepting this so called 'lockdown', a bane to a boon, preparing themselves thoroughly for their lessons and various competitive exams coming ahead, precisely and wisely managing their time during these intolerable crisis, which gives them the maximum time more than needed due to extension of lockdown, providing the best environment for students to sit down on their table, utilizing various digitalised and computerised electronic gadgets to acquire more than what is supposed to be learn, joining online coaching and classes and what not.
But how painful it is to see the other side-a total contrast to what had just been pointed out, do we see in our context-our State Manipur. Some exceptional students who have the will and quest to learn might perhaps be aware of the valuable time the lockdown had provided to prepare themselves at home for their own, despite the numerous ill-effects and impact it cause to the people. But it is hurting and discouraging as well as helpless to see tons of groups of youngsters and students in thei mid-schooling days are craving to fill their thirst- a thirst which is not meant to satisfy a thirst, one which does not keep oiling the engine of their life-a thirst that will thirst them for more. They gave their precious but fruitless time to needless things, as such- playing online games, gone away with the fairies with social media and what not when thousands as them out there, are reasonably and judiciously acquiring all feasible cognition from all possible and attainable ways, by hook or crook. This part, for an instance, is what I endured which is really demoralizing as a young learned man.
Many learned individuals in most parts of the districts within our state had tackled this predicament issue with a Lilliputian step towards 'India's Leaning Won't Stop' amidst this pandemic with nebulous lockdown, by taking up a home tuition for pupils of varying classes, which according to my view is the only possible step and remedy done for students living in the hills and remote places who are not able to afford to joining online classes and coaching in reputed coaching centres and institutions, when many good-to-do families in the cities nourished and supplement their children with online classes and so on. Such alternative steps as private tuition or home tuition is seen in most of the places where people are aware and have deep sense of commitment and sacrifice for learning.
How and what are the responses by the government and others to the pandemic?
The Information Service Television Network (ISTV), Imphal, the previous year, had launched and produced a series of educational videos based on online teaching, telecast a local network channel - ISTV Nongin, for students to learn through online and through television free of cost, where reputed and highly qualified teachers from various institutions volunteered to teach on various topics, mainly for college students pursuing MSc and BSc, in particular. This has been one of the steps taken by the state to compensate students who are adversely affected by the lockdown.
The Times of India on April 10 notified in their website that, ‘In view of the surging Covid-19 cases across various parts of the country, the state government, keeping in mind the well being of the students, on Friday ordered all schools in the state to suspend classes from standard VI to VIII with immediate effect’. Presently all schools and colleges, including the Manipur University has closed down because of the total lockdown in the state and learning is going on only through online learning mode using various apps like Zoom, Google Meet, Classroom, etc. And we are uncertain as and when and for how long this mode of online teaching-learning will continue to go on. But the fact is that online classes are never as satisfactory as when compared to offline or classroom learning which makes it crystal clear that offline or classroom learning is the best, both for students and teachers as well. Hence, it would not be wrong to say that the so called ‘lockdown’ hampers the lives of countless number of students.
What needs to be done by and for the students?
The state government, particularly the education department should look over the current trending challenging issues by acting accordingly as needed in the swiftest possible means, as an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. And online mode of teaching being the only possible alternative of learning for the time being should be made very effective by making the students to actively participate during online classes and regularity of attendance of students should be regularly checked by the respective teachers and do all that can and must be done in order to make sure not to hamper the learning of the students. Most importantly, students should wisely manage their daily timing and use the immense blessing we are endowed with the power of technology with consistent efforts from our side with positive outlook and hope, marching forward with a definite vision in unison.
The Way forward!
Manipur, a glorious state since time immemorial with its scenic beauty and magnificent geographical topography has been a melting pot of rich culture and tradition and is also a rich hotspot for tourism. The state is also highly recognised for its contribution in the field of games and sports even in the national and international level. Furthermore, the literacy rate of the state is higher than the national average of 74.04 per cent, which the people of the state must be proud of but not boast about; rather we should continue to carry this spirit and put our heads held high and hope for a better and more peaceful Manipur, where all never cease to learn and love. The deadly virus having been affecting the nation, causing severe impacts on the health of the citizens, drastic fall in the economy of the country, creating social chaos and political instability, and affecting the educational sector of the country, has had severe negative impacts in all spheres of life. But as an educated and a responsible citizen and leaders, we should and must be well equipped with all possible backups and possible remedies and fight against all odds to not let the educational sector be hampered by this untamed pandemic too. As Nelson Mandela, the first president of South Africa who was also an anti-apartheid revolutionary, rightly quoted, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can change the world” and always be reminded that that the youths of today are the leaders of tomorrow.
(The views expressed are the writer's own)