Uncertainty marks reopening of schools in violence-hit Manipur, as day one recorded low attendance. The day would long remain in the minds of the few children who were brave enough to turn up amid the high tension and turmoil that refuses to die down.
No doubt, the government's decision to reopen schools for classes 1 to 8 after a span of two-long months was met with apprehension from parents, who fear for the safety of their wards in the current tense situation. Also, the thousands of students who have been displaced or moved outside the state would find it difficult to return to school.
During a ground survey conducted by this reporter, it was found that some schools in the Imphal region witnessed attendance below 20 per cent.
At a missionary school, a lone girl child was the only student present in her classroom.
It was also witnessed that most benches in every classrooms visited by this reporter remained unoccupied.
The prevailing unrest since May 3, marked by continuous clashes between Kuki militants and village volunteers, Kuki militants and security forces in the peripheral region of valley districts has instilled fear among parents.
Many of them are reluctant to send their children to school. Concerns about potential attacks on schools by miscreants have further added to the reluctance of parents.
Principal of Don Bosco School, Imphal, Hans Igness while speaking to the Imphal Free Press expressed gratitude to the government for the decision to reopen schools. He, however, acknowledged the low attendance on the first day and urged understanding for parents' concerns.
He expressed the hope that attendance would improve as parents observe the situation for a day or two.
In response to the reopening, teachers have taken up measures to make up for lost time, including preparing notes and alternative teaching methods.
General secretary of the All Manipur Students' Guardian Association Sumati Sougrakpam also praised the government's efforts to reopen schools but emphasised the need for a special mechanism to ensure the safety and security of the students, alleviating the fears of parents.
Further drawing the attention to ensure that the all the displaced students in all the districts are ensured the right to education, she also called on civil bodies to support the reopening and ensure safety measures are in place.
While the reopening includes classes 1 to 8, many parents expressed concern about the omission of classes 9 to 12. They argue that these grades are crucial for career preparation and the government's decision should be reconsidered.
Chief Minister N Biren had earlier stated that the reopening of classes 9 to 12 would be considered after shifting the displaced individuals living in relief camps to pre-fabricated houses.
As per the Education (S) department, 60.83 per cent of students from classes 1 to 8 living in relief camps have already been enrolled in the nearest feasible schools.
The ongoing unrest, coupled with previous disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, has raised concerns about the impact on the academic careers of students in Manipur.
As the situation evolves, parents, students, and authorities await further decisions and measures to ensure the safe continuation of education in the region.
In Thoubal district, some schools failed to get even a single attendance. One teacher said that schools have been reopened but students failed to attend schools.
Meanwhile, according to an order issued by the state Education (S) Department, the resumption of normal classes in 4,617 schools acrossed the state will not be applicable to 96 schools,
The order mentioned that the 96 schools are currently involved in relief measures and others.
A separate order for opening of these schools will be issued at a later date after alternative arrangements are made either by shifting the students or shifting the relief camps and others, it maintained.
As per the order, of the total 96 schools, eight each are in Imphal East and Kangpokpi, two in Imphal West, two in Thoubal, 17 in Bishnupur, four each in Ukhrul and Tengnoupal, 10 in Kakching and 41 in Churachandpur.