Kwatha –“looks for a hope in face of despair”
By Keisham Kishan
Kwatha is a place where every Meitei would love to visit once in their lifetime .It was quite unknown to younger generation. Thanks to social media facebook page –“ Roots for freedom” and work hard of the Kwatha’s people, it is well known amongst the people of Manipur.Why did Kwatha hold a strong bond with the Meetei living in the valley ? Why is every person in the valley curious about Kwatha? What does Kwatha actually has ? Infact, Meetei living in the valley is quite unaware of socio-cultural and tradition of Kwatha. So, they would love to experience the flavour in Kwatha. They would be amazed once they visit the village because “Kwatha has everything” and “ It is unique”.
Kwatha is the only place where Meetei people endure and live similar way of living with that of hill tribe of Manipur .They possess a unique tribal feature. Their housing structure remains the same.Their daily activities—going to hills in early morning—do farming—and come back in the evening-- which is the way of life in hilly region.Nevertheless, their social power structure—having a village authority which is tribal in trait. Even, they had intermarriage with other tribal .The most unique and appreciating about Kwatha is that they still practice Meitei culture.They established a unique blend of hill and valley characteristics .
I was lucky to visit Kwatha as an State team of ASER (annual Status of education Report) to monitor the volunteer for conducting ASER Education Survey 2018. Kwatha is around 108 Km from Imphal ,near Moreh town in Indo-Burma Border. We travel on NH-2 and it was quite smooth on the high way ,though we had to climb hills up and down, turning and bending. And as we took a turn from NH-2 driving toward Kwatha, after driving 100km .It was quite a horrible with bumpy and pathetic road condition. Though we travel by a car, it wasn’t uncomfortable. It would be better to go by vehicles like Bolero or Bike.As soon as we reach Kwatha we talk with villagers—Chief and other authority to take permission to conduct the survey. After taking the permission, we took survey almost throughout the day. While conducting Survey, we visit each household and had conversation with villagers and I was able to sense regarding the menace of children education in the village. It tears my heart leaving me in disdain when I really came to know the truth about the paralyse and dysfunctional condition of the school. It is not just school, I feel the concept of “Model Village” remains a distant dreamt.
“Meetei living in valley doesn’t even bother about Kwatha but people of Kwatha loves and cares Meetei culture. So, they are still preserving Meetei culture and tradition”, expressed a villager in dissent.I could not grasp why did he say so but I felt Kwatha lacks government attention. Recently, our Member of Parliament Honourable Ksh. Babananda adopted Kwatha as his ‘Model Village’ under Sansad Adarse Gram Yojna’ on 12th January 2018. The people of Kwatha blissed with enjoyment and their non-functional junior high school was upgraded to high school building a new structure . The parents of the villagers brought back their children as they were studying outside the village. Most of the Kwatha children went for education to Moreh, Kakching or even Imphal ,staying at the boarding school. Their parents were filled with joy and ectasy as they could see their children everyday. The school has 7 teachers and was running smoothly for few month . But all hope and dream were shattered after month of June. Teachers were coming irregularly and students were demotivated as teacher didn’t turn up .Students then didn’t go to school and teachers never turn up. Only one Muslim lady and her husband,who is not an appointed, took the class, residing in the Kwatha village. All the students were worried of losing an academic year and parents were severely reprimanded for sending their children back to the village.
I was anxious to know what was the real condition of school and hope if I could give a hand after having acknowledge the menace of school .So, I asked the villager trying to find out what is the root cause of the problem.—
I asked to Youth in the village -
Me: Why aren’t teachers coming? Why don’t you file a complain to government?
Youth: We don’t know they just didn’t come. We told Village Authorities to do a complain to government. We don’t know whether they file a complain or not. We feel even Village Authorities are reluctant to do so.
Me: Does the school provide accommodation for the teacher?
Youth:The school doesn’t have accommodation for teacher but we told teachers that we can provide accommodation . Even a Muslim lady teacher is residing, in the village along with her husband. We feel that they can stay as one of the teacher is staying in the village.
ME: Why don’t some educated young mind in the village take class in the school?
Youth: One youth from the village taught Maths class voluntarily for few month. Now, he also stopped teaching.
Then , I asked to a mother in the village-
ME: What would you do as your children don’t receive an education? Now,they will lose an academic year.
Mother: Our children are not receiving any education at all. The teachers didn't come to school at all. This year I have no hope and helpless. But next year, I will send my children to either Moreh or Kakching even though I have to sell my whatever property I have. Because I don’t want my children to face the difficulty which I am facing now for being an uneducated person.
Again, I asked to a student living in the village-
ME: Why didn’t you go school Student? : Teacher didn’t come to school regularly. We have to wait for them. It was tiresome and boring. So, we stopped going to the school.
ME: Why don’t you learn yourself what has been in your syllabus?
Student: I try to learn what has been written in the book. But, it was quite difficult. I feel frustrated and irritated.
ME: Then what did you do as have free time whole days?
Student: We spend whole day walking –talking and hunting for bird and animals in the forest.
It is obvious that the students of Kwatha will lose an academic year which would morally affect them. And, The villagers ,especially parents are frustrated and lamented for bringing their children back to village.
While conducting ASER Survey, most of children are performing well and they were expressing their eagerness to go to school and have an education. They just need a little support. And It would be a great loss for the state and the future of the Kwatha if it doesn’t act in time . The concept of “Model Village” would be in vain. Development should be given priority to Human Resource Development and Health. Primary education is utmost significant for development of any country to which we pay little attention .The State machinery must take responsibility and accountability for the development of Kwatha. The people of Kwatha ‘need us ‘and must help them.
It is not just Kwatha schools that face the same sort of problems. Such a problem appears to be almosta perennial one in all the village of the State. So, most of the parents send their Children to either ‘growth point’ or district-headquarter or city. As a result, parents used to face financial burden as most of the villager are farmer and they aren’t well off. Nevertheless, they won’t be able to see and nurture their loved children on daily basis as most of the parents send their children to boarding or hostel or rent. It is necessary to reinvigorate such schools in those villages so that children stay and leave their blissful childhood memory in the village. ASER organises Right to Education (RTE) awareness programme to every such problematic village even reaching far-off remote corner of the state to revitalise such dysfunctional school by making villagers aware of their role and responsibility for development of school in the village.
(Keisham Kishan is the manager of ASER, Manipur and can reached at email@example.com)
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