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Future of our children

Editor,

Reference is made to the letter titled “A helpless parent’s appeal” (ST 28th Feb 2016) which so vividly illustrates the anguish, pain, torment and sense of helplessness that each and every citizen feels about the state of education in Meghalaya. In a nutshell it brings to the fore the pertinent question that is on every thinking person’s mind “In the name of Education, what are we doing to our children?” It’s obvious that there is need to re-evaluate the strategy adopted for our school going kids. At present the focus seems to be on the quantity of education being imparted rather than the quality. To burden the student’s mind rather than to liberate the thinking process seems to be end objective of our education policy.

Many conscientious teachers are not only concerned but thoroughly alarmed by what is going on. One of them told me that her school assessed  her by her ability to finish a course rather than her ability to impart education. It says it all! Many parents believe that their children are getting educated when they come home loaded with home work as doing home work or going for tuition after class keeps the child out of mischief. The teacher knows best! A parent recently checked on the home work her child was doing only to find that he had been asked to copy an entire paragraph from his text book to his rough book. Sheer stupidity! Why is the system so keen on making education such an unpleasant task for the child?

If education is to enable the individual to read and write, then no doubt Meghalaya can boast of 80% literacy. If however the end objective of education is to empower the mind; to facilitate comprehension of the world around us and to rationalise the thinking process, then we have to admit we have failed and failed miserably. Rote learning, the ability to cram for exams and to memorise whole passages can no longer be taken as being educated. The process has only managed to produce robots and zombies. We see them walking the streets everyday and we end up asking “Where is the future of this Jaitbynriew?”.

Education in Meghalaya seems to suffer from two fundamental problems. The first a policy lapse wherein we have failed to identify the real objective of education. The thrust has always been on the ability to access Govt jobs. Now that such jobs have become saturated, the education system followed has become redundant. It demands reassessment! Secondly administrative control of the Education Department over its multiplying constituencies has broken down. The inspection unit of the department has become overloaded with administrative red tape that they don’t have time to enforce regulations, especially on schools. Once again quantity overtakes quality!

If this generation of parents are really serious about the welfare of their children; about the quality of education they are receiving and if teachers and schools are concerned over the system of education they are imparting, then the time for all stakeholders to get together has come. Time to hold seminars, panel discussions, debates and workshops; time to engage with the Govt (not confront) on this important aspect of our children’s future. The author and ICARE are willing to spearhead such a movement. The revolution however will depend on the involvement of stakeholders, the parents, the teachers, the Govt, the educational experts and everyone who is concerned. Citizens are requested to come up and express, in whichever way they can, their views and opinions on the subject.

Yours etc.,

Toki Blah

(President, ICARE: Contact [email protected])

Can we retrieve our rivers?  

Editor,

The Shillong Times (Feb 22, 2016)  came up with a coloured photograph with a caption depicting  school children and other participants engaging in a cleaning drive of the Mynkjai river  in West Jaintia Hills Districts. This was done at the initiative of the District Administration .This  is to be appreciated  . However,  such initiatives   have been taken up  on many occasions in other rivers like the Wah Umkhrah and the  Umshyrpi  stream in Shillong. No doubt participatory annual cleaning drive  of our rivers is   a healthy  public contribution  to protect our rivers and streams but the need of the hour is  to pre-empt  further  damage to the rivers   by  providing  solutions that  will have  long lasting, favourable impacts on their  quality. Otherwise we will forever face the ignominy   of  having to  clear the   ever growing  filth and garbage in our rivers which in any case may become dead weights  if not  protected.    .

Some time ago this newspaper  reported  of prohibitory orders being imposed by the same District Administration  to prevent  indiscriminate  activities  on the Myntdu river and  its banks around Jowai  The news item  carried a headline portraying the Myntdu as a “dying”  river   and   accompanied it with   a photograph  showing   people washing  vehicles  in  the river. Since such prohibitory orders  were imposed in the past  the   news report would  indicate that  such   efforts   must  have been breached  and  that too  not always surreptitiously,  possibly, because  of poor  monitoring  or  perhaps there is  a staggered  approach  in applying the law. However, the  difference in the prohibitory orders  imposed  this time  is that a  specific  mobile number  is circulated  to the public to  report to the District Administration  for  follow up action.  It is now up to the people to cooperate .

        While   it is hoped that indiscriminate activities would be prevented  if   prohibitory  orders  can  be consistently   enforced,  the  encroachment of human settlements towards the river as visible  upstream will  pose a challenge  in applying   the law   if   alternative sites elsewhere  are not  available for  private  land owners to build their shelters. For this reason   settlements   at the banks of the   Wah Umkhrah  and its tributaries   flourish   since       appropriate   actions   were not taken  timely to avert such encroachments. The  adverse result is there for us to see and for which we now lament. On the other hand , the farsightedness  of our rulers a century ago  to take   over land  from the people   led to the  establishment  of   the  Laitkor Protected Forest and the  adjoining  forests near Shillong. This has  paid dividends  as  till date these forest lands  continue to be  the  source    of  unending water supply    to localities  below them and this may    continue  for   perpetuity   . These forest areas   also  exude a  favourable microclimate  and are  a source of recreation. They also give  Shillong   a pleasant  ambiance. Unfortunately  such farsightedness   seems to be lacking  in our present generation of rulers    as apparently  there is no   consideration     to take    over  even  twenty metres of land in  vulnerable  spots on  both sides of important rivers and to  bring such lands under  protective cover for their long lasting  care though the rivers  are  exploited  for  many purposes. Probably the   inclination if any is fazed  out by  the   perennial  pretext of fund constraints     while      wasteful   expenditures in a number of instances  elsewhere    down the years  does not seems to matter.

      For so long the   Myntdu river  is the lifeline  of the people  of Jowai    as it is the source of drinking water, irrigation  and recreation. Life for the people there centres around this  river . It is terrifying   therefore to visualize  that  one day  the Myntdu river  could  become  a “dead “ river  .For this not to happen, it  is    up to the people of Jowai  to raise the power of public reasoning  in elevating  the issues  of protecting this river  well before the  2018 election .  By then and   at the opportune time they can pose the hard  questions and seek for answers to safeguard their long term interests.

Yours etc.,                                                                                                          

K L Tariang,

Via email

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