For thousands of students in violence-hit Manipur, the resumption of academic classes has come as a silver lining amid the chaotic reality of the ongoing crisis. Ever since the crisis erupted in the state, Academic activities in the state have been put on hold for months on end.
The first day of school reopening for classes 9 to 12 on Thursday (August 10) saw a large number of students filling the silent classrooms with laughter and cheers. All government and private schools in most parts of Imphal saw hordes of students flocking to the schools with joy and classes commencing amid looming fear of fresh violent incidents.
But for the internally displaced students living in various relief camps across the valley region, the first day of the school reopening served as a reminder of the disparity between ‘how things could have been and how things have actually turned out’.
With no permanent place to call home and a shortage of books and other required academic supplies, the thousands of internally displaced students march on with grit and determination towards an uncertain future.
One Gina Pukhrambam, who has enrolled in class 11 in the Arts stream at the TG Higher Secondary School on Thursday, life has stood still as she struggles to focus on her academic life while staying in a relief camp with her family at Oinam Girls High School in Bishnupur district.
Teary-eyed, as she recalled the things and memories lost at her original residence located at Thingangphai, Churachandpur district, Gina stares at an uncertain future. She wondered what the coming days hold for her and her family as violence continued to rage on. Due to the continuing unrest situation, Gina and her family have been taking shelter at the relief camp in Oinam for more than three months now.
“I am happy that classes have begun but I have no books and no home at the moment; that sends chills down my spine and It makes me worry if I’ll be able to continue my school education,” says Gina sobbing, as she spoke to this Imphal Free Press reporter.
The thought of lack of livelihood sources to support her education troubles Gina.
“Although I feel elated to attend classes with new friends, the pinching thought of my family having no livelihood means makes me worry and no permanent settlement at the moment overweighs my happiness,” she said.
She shares that she could not ask for books and other supplies as she understood the economic difficulties her parents were going through.
It may be mentioned that as many as 4,747 students have been displaced due to the ongoing violence and are currently settled in different relief camps across the state and in other states outside Manipur.
A recent official notification released by director L Nandakumar of the Directorate of Education (Schools) informed all schools across the state to initiate academic activities for classes 9 to 12 from August 10 and further directed all zonal education officers under the Department of Education, Schools to inform all concerned and take up necessary action accordingly.
“There is no place like home but for me and many like me that place is gone, we have become wanderers as our homes have been burned down in the violence. The fear of the future has disrupted our focus and we cannot properly think about anything else,” she said.
The story is the same for Naorem Silky, who also stays at a relief camp in Kumbi Central High School. Silky hails from Torbung Bangla and is currently studying at TG Higher secondary school in Class-11 in Arts stream.
Silky too lamented that she had no books to study and a permanent place to call home at the moment. She expressed fear about her uncertain future as well.
“I completed my high school in Churachandpur but was forced to flee unexpectedly because of the crisis. But now, I have to travel long distances to attend my classes which is causing a strenuous economic burden on my family,” she said.
It is worth mentioning that the state government had promised to provide necessary academic items to all students in relief camps. The items include books, uniforms and other stationary commodities.
Both girls also pointed out the absence of a proper study environment at the relief camps and urged authorities to resolve the crisis swiftly.
The girls, however, raised concerns about where they would be staying after the conflict and questioned if they would ever be able to return to normal lives.
It is worth noting that both girls, while talking to this reporter, seemed aloof and grossly reflective of the traumatic experiences that befell them. As such, certain teachers pointed out the need for proper mental counselling and guidance so that the students do not stray into wrong paths in their budding life.
Sobbing as she highlighted her and her husband’s inability to fulfil the smallest wishes of their children, the mother of Gina Pukhrambam, Ibemcha, narrated that they were solely dependent on the supplies from the camp for their survival at the moment.
“I cannot even feed my children properly as the food provided at the camp is under a specific ration; on top of that, we do not have any substantial livelihood means to provide for our family at the moment and as such, we are seriously concerned about the well-being of the children,” she said.
Meanwhile, director L Nandakumar of the Directorate of Education (S) pointed out that around 94 per cent of displaced students had been admitted to the nearest feasible schools. The remaining would also be admitted shortly, he added.
With regard to shortages of school supplies in relief camps, he maintained that authorities had been unable to distribute necessary school supplies to all displaced students as the available data on the number of students kept changing.
“The directorate has opened a control room to manage the number of displaced students in relief camps. However, the number is constantly changing. So, we advised the public to inform about such places where the materials have not been distributed and we will ensure swift distribution of the essential items,” he said.
However, as the return of peace and normalcy remain a far-fetched dream with the authorities working at a snail’s pace, the hue and cry of students and parents living in relief camps continued to rise louder. Amid the turmoil, the moot question is who will attend and address their cries and what will be the future of the thousands stuck in relief camps, while the other students continue with their physical classes despite the fear of more violence and taking place in the state.