The HSLC exam this year was prominent for one more thing. Students of some of the front ranking Catholic Mission schools, in particular Little Flower and Nirmalabas, have considerably thinned down their presence in their usual spots – the first 20 rank holders. While this could be because of other schools taking quantum leaps in quality, it is difficult not to attribute some of the reasons to the continued harangue they made to go through because of diktats of sundry underground factions. Nobody knows for certain what exactly are the reason for them being targeted so consistently, but it is also anybody’s guess that they would be extortion related. This is sad. Behind the surface calm, here is yet another indicator that upkeep of law and order is still far from being the monopoly of the state as it should be. It may be argued the government is still relatively new, but the same cannot be said of those at its helm, for its top leadership were all part of the previous government, holding important positions. They should therefore know how these issues are tackled and cannot have any excuse for not acting. Two, in a situation of prolonged deadly conflict situation as in Manipur, the ordinary citizenry by necessity must learn to adapt to the normalised abnormal prevailing, and in this it must be said the Catholic mission schools seem to be failing miserably. They must therefore reorient their public relations outlook and perhaps even engage people suited for such management. Probably all other private schools and enterprises are faced with similar problems, but they have learnt to negotiate and settle them quietly and without suffering any more trauma than what everybody else in this abnormal times are subject to.
The matter is extremely important for many reasons. For one, there can be no doubt that these Catholic Mission schools have been behind a silent revolution of sorts in school education in the state, and if not for them, and if school education was left entirely in the hands of the government, it is imaginable where the state would be today. These schools have produced some of the best students who went on to be big successes in various fields in life in the past. They still continue to groom generations after generations of successful students, as the results of the HSLC Examination conducted by the Manipur Board of Secondary Education year after year are the evidence. Not only this, if a survey were to be done, it will be found most of the other non-mission private schools which are also putting up sterling performances today were started by past products of these Catholic Mission schools. Indeed, their combined alumni in any given year will read like a “Who is Who” of the state. We therefore join the appeal for the education sector, including importantly these school, be left alone so long as they are law abiding and continue render the yeoman service they have been rendering the state. In this, we again have no doubt whatsoever that the ultimate responsibility must rest on the shoulders of the government. It must use all the resources in its command to bring the matter to a logical and amicable conclusion. It cannot silently wait for the problem to end on its own and risk any possibility of the matter taking a tragic turn. Even more importantly, it must reclaim the authority of the state over the important agenda of law keeping.
Consider also some of the other consequences if Catholic schools were to shut down in the state. Government schools being still dysfunctional to a great extent, though a few experimental Model Schools started by the previous government barely a decade ago are rekindling hope of revival, many parents of children enrolled in these Catholic schools will be forced to send their children away to schools in other states, causing a flight of fund besides putting financial strains on the parents themselves, for they would end up spending a multiple of what they were spending on the education of their children in these schools. This will be especially so because the other private schools which are in their league will unlikely be able to accommodate all the students thus released for no fault of theirs. It must also be remembered that Catholic schools are there in other Northeast states too and wherever they are, they have produced shining results. It is no coincidence that states like Meghalaya, Nagaland and indeed Assam, have produced some of the most successful writers and bureaucrats. Let everybody, not least the government take note then that Manipur will only be shooting itself in the foot if it allows the situation to reach a point of no return.