Friday, 28 December 2012

Meaning of Christmas and its Traditions - Ngutoli Swu HOD History

''Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeer  but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a Teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas'' - Ronald Reagan

Meaning of Christmas and its Traditions

Every year, the month of December is eagerly awaited by the young and old alike all over the world especially among the Christians because of one very important day - 25th December, a day that is celebrated as the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ. This day is known all over the world by names like Christmas, Noel, Xmas, Yule and Nativity. we celebrate Christmas every year and this tradition has been practiced ever since our birth but have we ever stopped to ponder on why it was called Christmas and it is celebrated on 25th December leaving aside all the other days and months? how did the various symbols like Santa Claus, Christmas tree, Poinsettias, to name a few become synonymous with Christmas celebration? This Christmas, why don't we take a fresh look at the literal aspect of Christmas and its traditions and make our Christmas celebration even more meaningful?

The word Christmas is taken from old English - christes maesse which means Christ's Mass. The Bible contains many accounts about the birth of Jesus Christ but the exact date of His birth is not recorded. According to ancient documents, it was the Christians living in Rome who started celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on 25th December from the year AD 336 on-wards. The most commonly explanation about the Christians in Rome choosing 25th December as the birthday of Jesus Christ is that, the Pagans used to celebrate a popular festival known as Natalis Solis Invicti or 'birth of the unconquered sun'
honoring the pagan sun god - mithras on 25th December. Therefore, to turn the people away from the pagan sun god Mithras, this day was chosen. It replaced the significant pagan festival with the passage of time.
When we look at the celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ, it seems incomplete without decking up our houses, streets and churches with decorations like Santa  Christmas trees and the common practice of planting poinsettias. lets take a look at how all these originated. the origin of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas who is believed to have been born sometime around 280 AD in Patara, near Myra in Turkey. He was very famous for his kindness and generosity which ultimately resulted in many legends about him. He became well known as the protector of children and sailors. The name Santa Claus as known in America and to the rest of the modern world evolved from St Nicholas' Dutch nickname - Sinter Klass. By 1841, images of Santa Claus became very popular especially among children in america. Clement Moore's poem - ''an account of a visit from St. Nichols'' was largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus. The 18th century Americans' Santa Claus was not the only St. Nicholas- inspired-gift-given to make an appearance during Christmas time. In other parts of the world too, different versions became famous like Khris Kringle who delivered gifts to good Swiss and German children, the jolly elf named Jultomten in Scandinavia, father Christmas in England, Pere Noel in France, Babouschka in Russia, La Befana in Italy, etc.

The next common tradition is that of the beautiful Christmas tree that stands tall in our living rooms every Christmas  There are many theories about the origin of Christmas tree and it has been connected with the Egyptian and Roman customs, early Christians and Victorian practices. But most scholars regard Germany as being the place of its origin. In the 14th and 15th centuries, people in Europe performed miracle or mystery plays in front of the cathedrals during the advent season using the evergreen fir as a prop representing the tree of life as well as of sin. The German born Prince Albert and Queen Victoria popularized the custom of erecting Christmas tree. By early 20th century, the custom of decorating Christmas tree was adopted and this has become a cherished tradition of celebrating Christ's birth.

Another significant symbol of Christmas is the beautiful Poinsettias which starts blooming during the month of December and is locally and popularly known as ''Christmas flower'' by young and old alike in our state. According to legends, there lived a boy named Mario in Mexico who was poor. In Mexico, it was a Christmas tradition to carry flower to the church on Christmas eve. Every Christmas eve he would watch the villagers carrying on the tradition but he could not afford to buy flowers, therefore he used to search for wildflowers to take to church.on one such venture, as he was searching for the wildflower, a voice called out to him and told him to pick up the weeds and take it to the church. When Mario refused, the voice gently told him that the simplest gift, when given with love would be the most beautiful to the Christ child. Mario obeyed the voice and placed the weeds near the manger, inspite of being laughed at by other children. To the astonishment of everyone, the weeds turned into a beautiful red flower with bright green leaves. Mario then understood that the most important gift to the Christ child was the gift of love.

This plant was taken to America in 1836 by Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first American Minister to Mexico. Today, the Poinsettia flower has become a part and parcel of the holiday decor and tradition.

Apart from these, there are many symbols and traditions connected with Christmas  In our state, along with the Christmas tree, Santa  Poinsettias, the use and sale of different colored balloons has become synonymous with the holiday season. another very common symbol of Christmas celebration especially in the countryside is putting up of a huge star mostly in red color on a tall bamboo pole that is found on the front yard of every home. Christmas season is also the time when families visit the grave of their close relatives to clean and decorate it in order to show that even though they are no more, they are still remembered and loved.

But whatever maybe the tradition and meanings of Christmas that may have been accorded by many people, one should never get lost in all these traditions and forget the real meaning of Christmas which is God loving us so much that He gave us His son  who gave up His life for us - the ultimate symbol of love. As John 3:16 says ''for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have an ever lasting life''.

This holiday season may we rejoice and be blessed as said by Hamilton Wright Mabu ''blessed is the season which engage the whole world in a conspiracy of love''.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Shining Star and the Dawning of 2013 - Dr. P. S. Lorin

Educational institutions in Nagaland have now closed for the winter holidays and our students from different parts of Nagaland have all returned back home to their families to celebrate the festive season. Christmas and New Year are however, more than just fun and frolic. They can also be about how we can make a difference as agents of positive change. The Tetso College Community wishes all a  Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2013!

The Shining Star and the Dawning of 2013

I wonder how each of us is planning to spend Christmas and the New Year. I see stars shining on hill tops, rooftops of houses, Churches, retail stores, almost everywhere. Many will agree with me that Christmas and New Year are the two most popular holidays of the year. Celebrations of the two are therefore more extravagant all over the world, not only among Christians but everyone, irrespective of religion. So how do we celebrate these special occasions? While I am not one to point fingers at the way individuals celebrate such occasions, I believe this is a significant time to not only celebrate but also think about how we have been celebrating the two.

No doubt we all have our own individual preferences about how we celebrate. What’s important though is that we celebrate, without crossing the limit. Nagas have been termed one of the ‘friendliest’ groups of people from the time of our forefathers. I do not disagree with that. We are friendly, hospitable and entertain our guests very well. And I hear we love to party too. It’s great that we know how to be happy, but only so long as we know what we’re doing and our limits too. 

At this time of the year especially, let’s not forget why we’re celebrating Christmas or continue to celebrate it the whole year round on different pretexts. There is a time for everything and realistically we need to know how to balance our lives.
We all know that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. For Christians the conspicuous announcement was made in the book of Isaiah 9:6 which says “For unto us a Child is born…His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. Another significant announcement was made by the Angel Gabriel that Mary the betrothed wife of Joseph will conceive and bring forth a son named Jesus  (Luke 1:26-33). The birth of Christ in Bethlehem was witnessed, and the shining star led the wise men of the East to the baby. The Bible is written testimony that serves as a reminder for those of us who forget who we are, how and where we came from.  

Ultimately, the believers are assured of salvation through Jesus Christ. Christians are thus expected to observe Christmas in a significant way. I think the point is not merely to attend church services, wear good outfits and new dresses, exchange gifts, or throw lavish parties, but, are we ready to celebrate Christmas with a difference? And by difference I mean, do we truly acknowledge the begotten son, the greatest gift of God to strengthen our love and friendship through forgiveness and reconciliation? Christmas is a time of forgiving one another, reconciliation amongst family and friends and efforts to try to make our wrongs right and most important of all to spread the spirit of love and happiness.

It is also during this time that we tend to reflect on the passing year. We start thinking about the year’s activities – our successes and failures. These are the things that make the passing year memorable. It is a great time to reflect and reassess what we have done and what more we can do.

With New Year just a week after Christmas, it is a double celebration for us Christians. For us, New Year is somehow closely associated with Christmas and considered a part and parcel of Jesus’ birth. Christmas decorations are normally removed only after 1st January.  However, the essence of New Year celebration is worldwide. Midnight celebrations followed with picnicking and get togethers are most common features of New Year celebrations. 

Each year we hope for a brighter future. Truth be told, the succeeding year will be equally successful and terrible, in the sense that many promises might also go unfulfilled. But that does not mean we give up. Recollecting the New Year column in the local paper on 2012 New Year resolutions, I wonder if the published commitments have been fulfilled. One person said “I will quit smoking, not for me but for my family”.  I hope this individual has not failed. 

Now with just a few weeks left to welcome the New Year, let us welcome it with a positive difference. We are the agents of change and we will be responsible for negative or positive outcomes. Come 2013, our State with its unique political history and culture, requires a positive and stronger, united outlook. We can either emerge stronger in solidarity amongst tribes, organizations and groups or weaker divided into groups and tribes. 2013 is going to be a milestone year for us with lots of important decisions to be taken about the future of our Nagas and Nagaland. We need to prepare ourselves for the outcome.

As I see it, Nagas are excellent critiques. We waste no time in critiquing the conduct of festivals, functions, decisions and policies, which is a good thing if we want to continue improving and learning. But there is also a major difference between positive critique and destructive criticism. While it is important to be critical, we also need to believe in being positive.

Traits such as negativity and positivity are influential emotions that are contagious in a society. Like a virus they rapidly spread from person to person and later to larger masses. This is why, positivity needs to grow from the public upwards and prevail amongst our leaders even. Negativity breeds discontent, misunderstanding, wrong assumptions and opposition. I believe nothing works as well as positivity and constructive criticism, and if we want a stronger, better society, we can only succeed if we usher in a wave of positivism. It is my hope that we will welcome 2013 as agents of positive change.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Extortion and Unauthorised Taxation in Nagaland: When Will It Stop? - Dr. P. S. Lorin

If you notice, right about this time of the year (probably at its most rampant), besides the cultural and season’s festivities, we also read in the papers news related to crimes of extortion, kidnapping, unauthorized taxation and more. What we are experiencing is not a new phenomenon. We raise our voice against extortion, kidnapping and illegal taxation, because we find every other person or member(s) of an organization, a union or government department taking equal participation in extortion and unauthorized taxation. These crimes however, cannot be completely alienated from other crimes, which only aid to increase them. 

Extortion and Unauthorised Taxation in Nagaland:
When Will It Stop? 

According to the crime statistics of 2009, in Nagaland Post, Dimapur topped the list in the total number of registered crimes among all the major police stations in Nagaland. Six police stations in Dimapur revealed that a total of 695 criminal cases were registered during 2009.  

In 2011, amongst the registered cases of crimes as stated by the Nagaland Police, from January to May, extortion remains one of the highest with a total of 24 cases registered and the arrest of 44 people. As per the Dimapur Police crime record from June to September 2011, out of 4 registered kidnap cases, 3 were arrested and forwarded to Court; 30 extortion cases were registered, 41 were arrested and forwarded to court. (S.P Office, Dimapur). 

These events take into account statistical records of only registered cases, which leave out the significant majority of unregistered and successful extortion attempts. It is also disconcerting to know that despite the total number of arrests (85 arrests) from 2009 to September 2011, give or take a few, the number of extortion cases have increased from 24 to 30. What does this tell us? We are failing in two primary issues:
1. Failure to catch the remaining culprits
2.  Failure of the existing form of punishment/reform measures 

In the first issue, “Who are these culprits?” Our society cannot tolerate crimes committed by alcoholics and drug addicts. We readily vindicate them. But what about other members of the society? My point is that whether our social offenders are from a political organization, a union or a government department, anyone who commits extortion, takes part in any form of unauthorized taxation or organizes a kidnapping must not be exempt from the rules of law and order. Exceptions in law and order have often been the case in our society, which has only led to disguised forms of extortion and unauthorized taxation. Until and unless a uniform law is implemented as binding on every member of society, there will never be an end to these forms of varied forms of malpractice.  

The second issue - failure of the existing form of punishment – requires that we take a closer look at the consequences that follow registered cases forwarded to court.
What happens to the convict after the court hearings? How long are they convicted? And why are they allowed a bail? Our law and order proceedings have shown an abject lack of commitment towards resolving the issue permanently and quickly. 

Registering cases and capturing a handful of culprits are only temporary solutions to the problem. Subsequently, providing early bail or brief confinement cannot bring about any effectual change in the culprits. Unless effective forms of punishment or reform measures are implemented, no one, not even the general public will ever take our laws seriously. 
Besides this, another problem that exists is the economic divide. The society has been divided into haves and have-nots, mostly because of rampant corruption, bribery and nepotism. Securing employment is not always on the basis of merit but through greater monetary value or political connection.  In such cases, forms of extortion and unauthorized taxation take place, through individuals, sometimes under the guise of a union or organisation. 

How can we make a difference?
1. Learning the Value of Hard-Earned Money
I believe it is our private entrepreneurs today who can best understand the value of hard work and well-deserved money. The private sector, as opposed to the Government sector has always had the added advantage of having a greater sense of responsibility, list of checks and follow-ups with its employees and greater dedicated commitment towards producing profitable returns. Although they too have not been left out by extortionists, unauthorised taxations and kidnappings, there is a noticeable difference of profitable returns and quality, between the Government and private sector. What are the reasons for this? It is the employees. 
Learning the true value of money is crucial within a community. To improve economic disparity we need to feel “responsible” for the money that is being generated around us, especially within the Government sectors. It is only when we feel a sense of responsibility to our jobs, to our hard-earned money, can we stand up and fight back against our extortionists and our illegal tax-takers.

2.  Administrative Cleansing
We hear about cases of unauthorized collection of money or taxes by "public organizations and government agencies" at various points and check gates on state and national highways. Illegal taxations are not only from the underground factions and unions, but often collected by the excise department and, most shockingly, the police even! Foremost, we need to cleanse our police force. If the law protectors are the ones committing the offense we cannot expect protection from them. Checking of malpractices, laying down of ethical policies and orders more stringently need to be implemented.

3. Education
Our society is unique. Our problems and history set us apart from other societies. Educational institutes need to start educating the students about what extortion and corruption really are, in context to our Naga history. Churches need to step up and address these difficult questions from a Christian perspective. It’s very possible that the people involved in extorting money are the children of parents who themselves extort money, and are used to pursuing easy money. The child might just follow the parent’s footsteps unless society educates the younger generation. I strongly urge everyone to not let our children grow up, experiencing corruption, extortion and illegal taxation as the standard norm that defines our society.
Abridged from of a paper, “Extortion, Unauthorised Taxation, Kidnapping, Law & Order Problems Plaguing Dimapur : Causes, Preventive Measures and Laws to Stem the Menace”, presented at a Public Seminar organized under the aegis of Naga Council in coordination with Woman Hoho, GB Union, DCCI(Chamber of Commerce), Tribal Hohos, NMDA, Business Community, Students & all Dimapur Civil Societies on 1st October, 2011)
Crime Details. 
Govt. of Nagaland. n.d. Web.24 Sept 2011
“Crime statistics of Nagaland 2009; Dimapur tops list.” 
Nagaland Post [Dimapur] 15 Feb 2010.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.or

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Mathematics in Nagaland -- G.M.Nair, Asst.Professor,Tetso College

What makes a subject easy and what makes it difficult? A lot of students usually find mathematics to be a tough subject. Is it really so difficult or are we making it harder than it should be?

Mathematics in Nagaland 

This piece is probably the result of my consternation at the appalling state of the study of such an important science in the state of Nagaland. Study of science in general is itself not popular here as can be inferred from the fact that out of 54 colleges in the state, only 7 offer science courses. Among all the sciences, I found Maths to be least preferred, with only a handful of  students at the degree level. The pass percentage at the higher secondary level hovers around 53,probably with a liberal dose of moderation. No college offers PG degree in Maths in Nagaland. One wonders where all the thousands of arts graduates would find employment in or outside the state.

C.F Gauss, a renowned mathematician, referred to Maths as the Queen of Sciences. It is a powerful tool in many fields like engineering, natural sciences, economics, medicine, commerce, etc. Applied Mathematics has led to the discovery of new disciplines such as game theory and statistics. Maths when studied for its own sake is called Pure Maths, which is a science with fast expanding horizons: so fast that securing a doctorate is more difficult than climbing Mount Everest, requiring one to be abreast of the latest research on the selected subject, failing which one’s work would have been pre-empted by someone else! Pure Maths, however, is not purely in the realm of the grey cells. Many theories of pure Maths have later found surprisingly useful applications in other fields,  including mundane life. Thus Maths is one of the most useful of all sciences, without which other sciences cannot progress and develop.
Let me recount some (perhaps) unpalatable truths relating to the study and teaching of Maths in Nagaland as also observations made during my teaching career in Nagaland

I know of schools in interior places where all subjects are taught by the same teacher! Often his presence is indicated only by his absence. I was told (cannot confirm this of course) that in some cases the appointed teacher does not teach; he entrusts the work to another for a lesser salary! Infrastructure like safe classrooms, clean toilets, etc. is woefully absent. Some private schools appear to run more on commercial lines than as centres of learning. The policy makers seem to have forgotten that without a solid foundation laid at the primary and high school levels, Maths at the higher levels becomes  a nightmare for the students, as it indeed has. Study of Maths, unlike other arts subjects, is like construction of a building. The brickwork can stand only on a solid foundation. Every brick is placed on the one below it. In fact, this lack of proper foundation is one of the major causes of the weakness and dread of the subject prevalent among Naga students.

The quality of teachers at the primary and middle school levels is also a matter of concern. Qualified Maths teachers are hard to find. The accent in schools seems to be to finish the syllabus on time, often sacrificing detailed exposition of the subject. For some time, I used to tutor one class VII student from a very expensive school in Dimapur, who was very weak in Maths. One day he made a stunning statement: he said that his school teacher only gives the answers-he does not explain anything!! I may add that the boy did not know how to add / subtract positive and negative numbers!

There seems to be another atrocious practice in some schools, as  gathered from one student. Upto class X, students are promoted to the next class even if they fail in one subject. Usually they take advantage of this and totally ignore Maths, the dreaded subject. Thus, they reach class X without having the faintest idea of  Maths! Helplessly, they then  run around looking for tuition, that too at the end of the academic year. What can the tuition master do?

Lastly, in many schools either Maths or Biology are offered as the main subject at higher secondary level  alongwith Physics and Chemistry, which are compulsory for science stream. Most of the students choose Biology ,with Maths as the sixth subject. This means that even if a student fails in Maths, he/ she will pass the Board examination if he/she passes in other subjects!  With such a lopsided policy, students do not take the subject seriously, particularly when the normal mindset of an average Naga student seems to be to just secure a pass in the exams. To my mind, this policy is one of the root causes of the apathy towards Maths.Yes-importance of Maths is confined to speeches.

If  all the aforesaid factors are corrected by urgent measures and policy changes, there is no reason why Naga students cannot do well at Maths at least till  class 12 level. Let us not create Maths phobia in young minds and teachers should aim to make the study of the subject as interesting as possible. Terms like ‘discaculia’ should be erased from the psyche of the children, parents and teachers.Applied Maths can offer a variety of job opportunities and enhance the employability of graduates. This would greatly help the unemployment problem of the state. Let us hope that policy makers wake up to this reality  and initiate necessary measures to streamline and promote study of Maths in Nagaland.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

There’s more to an exam than passing… or failing - Hewasa Lorin, Director-Student Services & HOD English

What does Nagaland University, Nagaland Board of School Education, Central Board of School Education all have in common with an Ivy League institute like Harvard University? They all use some system of evaluation which we call an EXAM.  How important are exams? Are exams just about the marks we score or is there something more we should be learning from them?

There’s More to an Exam Than Passing… or Failing

As a student, I remember how unpleasant exams felt, especially towards the end of the year. It was an interminable wait for the winter holidays, intensified because of the festive season. Now an adult, you would think that the pressure of exams would be gone, but it’s not. I realize it includes even teachers of students, for that matter, even parents whose children are appearing exams. Exams are a big deal. But of course, that’s something we already know.
 But I think it’s an even bigger deal than we let ourselves believe. 

This year Nagaland University has rolled out its first Semester Examination for the Ist Semester students. Promotion or selection exams have also been going on, some of them about to be over too. Exams have become the norm in the academic world (as well as in the professional world) for assessing a student’s success or failure, as well as a teacher’s success or failure. It’s that time for teachers to see if all the lecturing and shouting in the class have finally paid off and for students to show what they’re capable of. So, it’s a crucial time for everyone trying to prove something to each other and to themselves as well. 

Unfortunately, some students will fail, while others will succeed and move ahead. It’s unfortunate that not everyone passes. But there is something more to exams than simply passing or failing. It’s also about what we have learned in the process and what we do right after. Most of the time, exams in Nagaland are associated with last minute cramming, memorization and putting it all down on paper, only to forget everything a month or even a week after. The majority seem to be more concerned about the result and how one can reap the benefits of an exam without actually preparing properly for it rather than the process involved.

For students who don’t make it through, sure, it’s not the end of the world, but it also means it’s time to find out what you’re doing wrong. Some the greatest inventors like Thomas Edison, who was also homeschooled had to face countless failures before tasting success. We can take solace in the stories of college drop-outs like Bill Gates (Chairman and Founder of Microsoft), Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook), Michael Dell (Founder and CEO of Dell) who later became great entrepreneurs, but it’s pretty obvious they did not get there by simply sitting back. Not everyone can be successful like the people mentioned above. What sets them apart is that they had a vision, knowledge and experience that offset their academic failures. Ultimately, what really matters is how we pick ourselves up after a failure or even success both in life and academically.If we look at the numbers, passing is not that difficult anymore. In order to get pass mark, taking the example of Higher Secondary students who require 33 marks to pass,, a student just has to attempt a minimum of 33 questions in the question paper, out of 100 marks. If the student has written all 33 questions correctly, then he/she has already passed! That leaves the rest 67 marks for the student to still attempt and make up, in case the other 33 questions are wrong. For successful students - it does not mean success will stay with you forever either. No teacher expects every student to be an Einstein or a Newton, but hard work is required for any amount of success to continue, no matter how bright or intelligent. 

So, how are exams an even bigger deal than we let ourselves believe? Exams are not meant to simply test how much one knows, but they are also there to remind us how much we still need to know. Writing essays, critical analysis’, comparisons, evaluating, highlighting, are all helpful not just for the purpose of writing exams, but in practical life later on. We need to make our students realize this. Exams are helpful even for teachers, primarily, to pick out the strong from the weak and to identify which type of teaching method has worked better and for which student.  For this, analysis of performance by student, teacher and even institution has become just as crucial as teaching. 

With the internal assessment system introduced by NBSE (for Higher Secondary) and NU (for Semester System), the importance of class tests, project work, presentations and assignments have increased as internal marks now carry weightage for the final result. NBSE has done a great job in assessing the performance of students after the HSLC and HSSLC exams for 2012.  In the feedback report of the exam performance, information on the common problems and weaknesses of majority of students were provided, including percentages of marks for each subject. Analysis of this kind can help our students by guiding them on where and how to improve. 

But while analysis is taking place, there still seems to be a larger problem at the heart of exams and the way in which they are being conducted in India. Cases in the past have shown that it is still possible to leak question papers across to students (examples are the Tamil Naidu Public Service Commission and DU’s BCom I distance education question paper leak this year); teachers or authorities still allow cheating in the exam halls, and even provide answers to students. How safe is Nagaland from all these practices? And how fair does this seem for other diligent students? 
What is a 1st division student going to do with his result; if ultimately, he cannot perform as good as the marks on his marksheet. It’s not only the end result or the marks alone that we need to be concerned with. The true mark of an excellent student or institute cannot be measured solely by the marks he scores or the number of ranks an institute secures; it should be more about what a student takes back after an exam.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Save Our Oral Tradition - Ngutoli Y. Swu, HOD History

What are we doing with the culture we have? This is a question that looms over us as we are being fast absorbed by the 21st century and its modernised life. We celebrate Ahuna, Sekrenyi, Ngada, Tokhu Emung, etc. We have an Arts and Culture Department, State Museum and more. But are they really enough to preserve our culture? Our Head of Department of History believes we can do more.

Save Our Oral Tradition

Radcliffe Brown, an English social Anthropologist in 1949 stated that “(culture is) the process by which in a given group or social class, languages, beliefs, ideas, aesthetic taste, knowledge, skills and usages of many kinds are handed on (tradition means handing on) from one person to another and from one generation to another”.

This clearly rings true when it comes to the oral tradition of the Nagas. Our rich cultural heritage and tradition is based on our oral tradition. The question is “what is oral tradition?” In simple terms, oral traditions are cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another through song or speech. They may take the form of folktales, folksongs, proverbs, myths, etc. Nagas in general, in spite of being made up of different tribes, take pride in the rich heritage and tradition. But globalization has affected the way we respond to it.

We need to realize that collecting and preserving our oral tradition is the way to understanding our past, leaving a treasure for our future generation. Since time immemorial, our oral tradition has been transmitted through folk stories, songs, customary laws, rituals, etc. In the olden days, the Morungs were the venues where such transmissions took place. Young people after attaining puberty would live together in the Morungs (separate for boys and girls). It was the most important educational system for the young people where Naga culture and customs were learnt through folk music, folk tales, dance, wood carvings, etc.

Today, globalization and the advancement of technology have overshadowed our oral tradition, especially amongst the young people. If this trend continues, oral traditions are in danger of extinction. History has shown that most primitive societies relied on oral tradition and accordingly efforts were made to preserve and document it. In western societies, the use of oral material goes back to the times of Greek historians like Herodotus and Thucydides. We, Nagas too, need to give greater importance to the value of oral tradition.

How We Can Help
Many researchers have brought out books and research papers on some aspects of our oral tradition and culture. The tribal hohos and the literary boards are also putting in efforts in this field. But the task of preservation of our oral tradition requires mass involvement of all individuals from every strata of our society.  For this, indigenous strategies along with the electronic media can be utilized in recording and preservation. 

Indigenous strategies that can be employed are the formation of artistes association in every village, promoting the importance of tribal festivals, etc. Among these, language forms the most important basis for preserving our oral tradition and heritage because they carry the link between the people and their history. Therefore, more than anything else, as much as we encourage and stress on the importance of learning and speaking good English among the young people, equal importance should also be given to our indigenous tribal languages. The first step we can take is starting in schools and colleges. Instead of offering Alternative English as a paper option, why not make the indigenous tribal language a compulsory paper. This means that whatever field of study the students may choose at a later stage, they would still have the basic knowledge about our oral tradition and learn to value it. 

An excellent initiative started by the Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan, Ujjain in their effort to preserve the Vedic oral tradition in its original form, is the provision of incentives through one of its scheme. According to this scheme, a Swadhyayi Teacher possessing mastery of at least one Shakha of one of the Vedas is selected and is required to give coaching for a period of upto 6 years to 10 selected students. During the duration of this course, the Teacher is paid Rs. 5000 per month and the students are paid a scholarship of Rs. 500 per month. In this way, the Vedic tradition remains alive even today after thousands of years. 

The State Government should also take initiative in promoting more research of our oral tradition by providing more scholarships to the Researchers in this field through the Universities and also provide incentives to publish their research papers. This will create awareness as well as interest in our oral tradition. More libraries and museums should be set up. This way our oral tradition can come alive and young people can have a hands on experience through the workshops and seminars that can be conducted by such departments. University can also be encouraged to introduce papers on oral traditions and history. In Colleges, students can be assigned project works on our oral traditions like folk tales, folk dances, etc. The student bodies of every village can become ambassadors for the preservation of oral traditions and take initiative in protecting the monuments, monoliths and places connected with our oral traditions. 

The Schools and Colleges should also start conducting inter school and inter collegiate competitions on folk song singing, dramatization of folk tales, debates on customary laws,  and also highlight one or two traditional games during the Sports’ week. Awareness programmes, seminars and workshops can be conducted where in the expert artistes and elders of the community can enlighten the young people and records of such events can be preserved in the form of audio, video and even published as journals. 

We still have a long way to go if we want to compare ourselves with countries like the US, UK, Australia and Canada where the universities offer degree programmes and classes aimed at educating the oral historians on key issues relating to the preservation of oral traditions. Once the seeds of awareness take root, in due time, our oral tradition can stand on solid foundation and remain intact for the future generations. But the first step needs to be taken today. In the future we would surely not want to be categorised as the people described by Marcus Gravey when he said, “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin or culture is like a tree without roots”.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Are Teachers Really Giving Importance to Work Experience in Schools? - Mhabeni Tungoe, Assistant Professor Education

Students of Tetso College participating in social work 
Students study Math’s, History, English and other subjects. Many times, we fail to understand the connection they have with the realities of life. A closer look at our education policy and system does indicate that there exist provisions for SUPW and work experience as a subject. Education is not only about books but it is also about the arts, music and sports activities that help develop a person’s character. When our school system already has provisions for SUPW and Work experience as a graded subject, it begs the question: 

Are Teachers Really Giving Importance
to Work Experience in Schools?

Education is one of the most important instruments to bring transformation in society. Keeping in mind the importance of education for the upliftment of economy and vocational education in society, many educationists have made and have been making worthwhile attempts to link education and work experience. According to educationists, the education system must not be too theoretical that students seldom have the occasion to learn things by practical application. The students will be able to learn through their own experience if greater importance is given to work in education.                                                                                                

Work experience (WE) means to obtain experience through work. It is a technique through which work and education are co-related. The term ‘work’ here means that activity which develops a tendency for productivity. Socially useful productive work refers to the purposive, meaningful and manual work, which is useful to the community. S.U.P.W is one avenue through which students acquire work experience. S.U.P.W is a subject that can branch out into a variety of work related activities. However, it is essential that S.U.P.W should either result in material production or involve students in some form of service.

Objectives of S.U.P.W:                                       
1)      To acquaint students with the world of work and services of the community, and develop in them a sense of respect for manual work
2)      To develop a desire to be useful members of the society and contribute their best to the common good
3)      To inculcate positive attitude of team work and desirable society values like self-reliance, dignity of labor, tolerance, co-operation, sympathy, and helpfulness
4)      To help in understanding the principles involved in the various forms of work
5)      To provide opportunities for creative self-expression and for the development of problem solving abilities
Work experience is directly linked to handicrafts, trade, industrial and technology.
Many developed countries have successfully linked education with work experience in their education system. In India, Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest educational philosophers suggested that handicraft be taught not merely for production work but for developing the intellect of the pupils. This idea was forwarded by the Kothari commission (1964-66), which suggested introduction of work experience in the Indian education system.  Subsequently, after the recommendations of the Iswarbhai Patel committee (1977), which first coined the term socially useful productive work (SUPW), in the history of school education in India the subject was first introduced to the school curriculum in 1978, by the Ministry of Education, Government of India. At present, India is moving forward due to the serious efforts of NCERT, Union Ministry of Education, social welfare, and State Department of Education.
In the Nagaland school system, SUPW is an integral part of the curriculum.  Every year the students submit their SUPW and accordingly they are graded and given marks. In some schools in Nagaland, life skills activity and vocational education are provided with a well organized system through which the students experience work and produce their creative work. At the same time, some students in educational institutions produce their creative work, even without training at school, which is very appreciable.
However, WE/SUPW in educational institutions in Nagaland are generally not effectively implemented, according to how the objective should be. This is because in many government and private schools, a well-planned and organized system is lacking for WE/SUPW. Now the question before us is, are students bringing useful productive work through work experience? This question must be looked into by the educational department, institutions, teachers, and parents. It is pretty obvious that when the time comes for the submission of SUPW, majority of the students usually bring things bought from the market and get graded accordingly. This practice does not promote development of work skills and dignity of labor in the students, rather it focuses on good or more expensive products accompanied with a good and undeserving grade. This goes completely against the purpose, ethics and objective of WE/SUPW. If we truly want WE/SUPW to work out well and effectively in our school system, for the student’s community and society as a whole, certain changes are needed. These are changes which cannot be made by one factor alone, but requires the joint effort of the education department, schools, teachers, students, parents and the local community.
Certain things that can be implemented are:
(1) Educational department can make it mandatory for every government and private school in the state for the provision of separate SUPW classrooms.
 (2) Appointing trained teachers for teaching different handicrafts, activity and skills; so that the students can be trained, taught to utilize and develop their creative abilities and potentialities and produce products that are useful to the needs of the society. Their efforts can also help the economy of schools, at the same time, the students can prepare for the right vocation.
 (3) Teaching materials and textbooks should be provided for effective learning.
(4) Sufficient funds must be provided.
(5) Provision of raw materials by parents so that students can bring them to school and make the products under the supervision of the teachers.
(6) Proper evaluation system of the students work. The productivity of the students can be accepted as the basis of evaluation, supplemented by oral, written, and daily work in assessing the student’s merits.                                            
In my opinion, if we give importance to the above points, this can result in a more effective and positive work experience for our students and ultimately society as a whole. We, Nagas, are gifted with artistic skills and talents like no other, comparable even in the national and international scene, as talents like Atsu Sekhose and others have shown. We must tap and hone these skills. WE/SUPW might just be the solution to helping our children begin early on to stay one step ahead of the rest.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Stuck in the Moment - Kvulo Lorin, Director-Administration

Hornbill, weddings, exams, Christmas – all these are fast approaching as we soon come to the end of another year. But amidst all this hover our long drawn out Naga issue – an issue that has led to perennial bloodshed and confusion and still continues to plague our state over years and years of talks. Are we near the end or are we in the middle? Where do we stand? As a society, as tribe, as a family or as an Individual?

“Everything can look like failure in the Middle” –Kanters Law

In a recent training programme held in Shillong, it was interesting to meet and interact with other people from the northeast. However, apart from the occasional questions about our raja mircha and culture, the questions invariably veered towards politics, elections and the protracted Naga solution. In fact, even their newspaper editorials were commenting on the Naga issue. The underlying message that hit me was that a lot of the common people in the entire north-east wanted peace and an end to violence. Maybe that’s why so many eyes are currently on our small state. What’s going to happen next?

I am no expert on the north-east economy, but I feel that while the non-tribal communities overwhelmingly dominate a lot of the business, it seems like many educated tribal entrepreneurs are trying their hand at the trade these days and Nagaland is no exception to this. Looking at the northeast as a whole, it feels great to know that elite institutes like IIM and IITs are being setup in the region. Tourist-centric festivals like the autumn fest and hornbill festival to bring both international and domestic tourists (I heard the hotels in Kohima are already fully booked for the hornbill festival) to the North-East also seem to be creating more awareness. We're also seeing our own local band Alobo Naga representing MTV India competing against the whole world, Mary Kom becoming a household name in mainland India and our own football team competing in the I league.

With globalization, the world as a whole seems to be moving closer and this includes our very own north-east. It’s blatantly apparent that the Naga issue has not just affected Nagaland but a lot of areas in the north-east as well. I think if a solution could be found, acceptable to the many stakeholders, then it just might be a game changer for the entire north-eastern region and Nagaland in particular. It could be just my imagination, but even Ibobi’s comments regarding Manipur’s territorial integrity seem less aggressive than usual. The other states also seem to be maintaining controlled silence and secrecy to some extent so as not to jeopardize the talks which are going on.

That being said, just like when we have prohibition, illegal bootleggers benefit by selling illegal alcohol. Even war benefits certain sections of society. For example, war benefits weapon manufacturers who sell arms and ammunition. Similarly, we can't say that insurgency is causing suffering to all. There are probably sections in the north-east or Nagaland who benefit if a solution is never found.

Is the Indian government finally willing to take hard decisions and use its political will to push for a solution? Considering they introduced FDI and finally stood up to the unreliable Mamata, raised the price of petrol and took many unpopular, but necessary, decisions sort of gives me hope that they might have the political will to do the unthinkable at this juncture. Politically, this might be the best time for a solution since Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam, Manipur are all Congress ruled states at the moment. It’s a difficult task and the leaders and spokespersons seem to be a really abused and insulted lot.

We live in a society - a melting pot of values, cultures, ego and language barriers. The church wants us to behave in one way, our village in another, family etc. We also live in a democracy, but democracy is also a political system which does not consider the level of education of the voters. In some cases, we must expect someone who has not gone to school as capable of making the best and rational decision in choosing a leader. Does this mean society is always correct? Invariably, it also implies an individual cannot always be correct.

We also talk about freedom. A man does not want his wife to say anything, his children to order him around, his friends to be critical or boss to be bossy. Ultimately, he may acquire so much freedom that he will finally be alone - no boss, no wife, no friends. He is a victim of freedom.

Thanks to technology, the internet and social networking sites, our complex naga society is now part of an even larger and complex society. It may seem strange to our elders but sometimes our past experiences are the ones which are actually holding us back. Today, what happens in Greece also affects India, which affects Nagaland. What happens in Nagaland affects the whole northeast and vice versa. The world is tied together now economically and socially in more ways than one. We are a community and we need to learn to live like one with ourselves and with others. We are not alone in this world. According to Malcolm Gladwell, "What we do as a community, as a society, for each other, matters as much as what we do for ourselves.”

In the 2012 London Olympics, the city cheered for a Marathon Runner who came last, Caitriona Jennings. Exhausted and plagued by a foot injury, no one would have faulted her if she had quit like some of the other runners. But she didn’t. She went on and completed the race with a standing ovation from the crowd. I think we have all been faced with daunting challenges, projects, assignments and problems. It is usually when we are in the thick of things that unexpected problems crop up and questions arise. Do you plough along through the difficulties and make mid-course corrections, or do you abandon it? Pull out in the messy middle, and the effort is a failure.

I think we’re in the middle where our Naga talks are concerned. I also think we are in the middle in a lot of the tasks at hand like our fight against corruption, development, reservation, jobs, prohibition etc. The issue is deciding which direction to take. I believe we’re only too well aware that we are already encountering a multitude of situations, which could turn into our biggest mistake or our greatest solution.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Who Hurts The Most When Parents Separate? - Loina Shohe, Asst. Professor Sociology

Do you know someone whose marriage is falling apart? our close knit naga family and community life is facing challenges these days.  we have little access to professional counselling, except maybe through our churches and religious leaders. marriage breakdowns can be devastating for both partners, but there is a deeper long term effect when a divorce happens.

Children of "Nagaland Childrens Home" in Dimapur Nagaland
Divorce has never been that common in Naga society. Unfortunately, while I have no official statistics, I believe the rate of divorce is increasing sharply in our society. 
What has been causing the breakdown in our relationships? Domestic violence, addiction (alcoholism, drug abuse), extra marital affairs , misunderstandings , personal differences between couples, interfering in-laws etc .Many people consider divorce as a social embarrassment only, and often don’t pay heed to the other negative impacts that come  with divorce. Unlike in the advanced western countries where people have now realized the deep negative impact of divorce, our society is still staying behind closed doors trying to shy away from it. This is clearly evident from the fact that there is still no proper research on divorce in our society. Married couples don’t have access to marriage counsellors in Nagaland and there are very few social programs that cater to this subject.

The negative impact of divorce runs more cruelly especially in marriages where children are involved but the effects of divorce on children are often not even acknowledged. Many parents who divorce do not pause to think about the effect their decision has on their child. In a patriarchical, patrilineal  society like ours, normally when parents  divorce the father usually retains custody of the children according to our customary laws. In most cases the mother and the children are often forbidden to meet. This is particularly more pronounced when the children are still very young infants. In such cases, children must confront the fact that they are not even allowed the freedom to meet one of their parents at times.

Normally, most children are brought up with belief in the one-family structure where his parents are there to look after his needs as a team. Divorce carries a mental stigma on the child, which may force the child to question their own place in the world and cultivate feelings of betrayal and resentment against both parents. Questions like “Why was I born when my parents can’t even be together?” are common and can emotionally scar the child for life giving skewed opinions on ethics, morality and even relationships.  The embarrassment, the pain, and the loss, due to his parents’ divorce  can easily translate into anger at life for the separation of his family ., When a child’s mentality is disturbed, when his psychological and emotional state is on the low it can harm his chances to live a normal or successful life.
Even if the parents have to divorce, it would ease the minds of the children to know that parents are still there for their children. A child should never be forced or expected to forget or ignore his father or mother’s existence. Let us remember that divorce means a dissolution of marriage, a final termination of a marital union, cancelling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving of the bonds of matrimony between the parties (i.e. the parents). It doesn’t in any manner define that a child and a parent’s relation is to be severed or cancelled. If parents try to keep their personal grief and disappointments aside and try not to engage in conflict for the happiness and well being of their child then there will be greater possibility for their child to move on with life. 

Young minds are impressionable and fragile therefore, for divorced parents with children; it becomes especially necessary to put the children first, despite the personal problems both parents may be going through at the time. It would be best if they can talk about the divorce openly with the children and share their feelings on why they had to divorce. The children should also be encouraged to express their feelings freely so that they don’t have to keep their emotions bottled up. This sort of interaction would help the children to accept reality, unburden their emotions and help them to face the world with more optimism.

In situations where the conflict in the married life of the couples is intense, some people often state that its bests the parents actually separate instead of remain together. This might be true; however it should also be pertinent to note that all children do not receive their needs through one parent alone. There is always a father’s role and a mother’s role and the influence of both on a child’s personality and character. Divorces between parents should not take away the fulfilment of the needs of the child. In fact divorced parents should put in extra effort to ensure that the needs of their child are met as best as possible. By needs,  I do not mean only the material needs, rather the non- material (psychological, emotional) stability of the child.

Studies conducted in the developed countries reveal -
“Teens from divorced homes are much more likely to engage in drug and alcohol use. Children from divorced homes experience illness more frequently and recover from sickness more slowly. Children of divorced parents suffer more frequently from symptoms of psychological distress. Children of divorcees tend to fall behind in their math and social skills and may not catch up with their peers.” Researchers have said these difficulties, along with feelings of anxiety, sadness, and low esteem are more prone to committing crimes due to the impact of divorce on children. Our society still largely underestimates the negative impact of divorce on children, possibly because facts regarding this have never been officially furnished. For many of us, divorce is still more of a social sigma and many of us still don’t want to discuss it in the open. No matter what our attitude towards it may be; we cannot go on ignoring it because whether we like it or not we cannot deny that divorces are now occurring more frequently than ever in our society.  

We, the lay people, the NGOs, the church, the government especially should realize the cruel impact of divorce. We need to spread awareness, and come up with solutions on how best to avoid divorce, especially when children are involved. There is a saying ‘Family is the foundation of a society, marriage is the foundation of a family, children are the youths of tomorrow and youths are the future of our society.’

Consider the consequences of divorce upon the future of our society. When divorce affects marriage, it also affects the family, which in turn affects the children. Needless to say, it is high time that divorce is prioritized as a severe social problem and the trauma of children from divorced families be given due importance.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:”

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Caring for Cleanliness - Hewasa Lorin, HOD of English, Tetso College

Nagaland is home to one of the richest cultural traditions in the world with many tribes and cultural beliefs – something we must be proud of. We belong to a culture that regards ‘respect’ very highly, primarily ‘respect for elders’. Taking ‘respect’ beyond the confines of human interaction, I believe we need to transmit it beyond and give it its due worth with regard to public property.

The extent of just how much we respect public property is pretty evident from the condition of our govt. offices and public amenities today. The joy of visiting a Govt. office is short-lived with numerous paan stained walls and stairs, and dustbins that take their name way too literally, whenever you turn a corner. Visit the supermarkets in Kohima and Dimapur, and you will find yourself tiptoeing through a maze of mud and filth, and trash dotting the pathways. A serene drive to our villages greets us with beer cans in various scenic viewpoints. All this, despite knowing that the ill-effects of unhygienic conditions lead to epidemics, health hazards and environmental imbalances. It’s time we started worrying about it to a greater degree.

If this is what we call a developing or developed Nagaland, at the rate at which we have very successfully managed to damage what’s already there, there may not be much of it left. Probably, part of the problem lies in our apathy to the entire situation. We have become so used to the routine sight of dirt and grime that I think we are soon entering a phase called, to borrow a medical term, “anaesthesia”, in which we have become completely immune to the deplorable unhygienic environment in which we seem to be unabashedly thriving within. So accustomed are we that we no longer even seem to notice the paan stains, spitting or the garbage right beside us. For those of us who do, maybe we just probably give in with a sigh of resignation.

Of course, the problem does not exist only in Nagaland. I recall a Naga friend of mine from Delhi commenting about the condition in Hyderabad, when she first arrived. The first thing she commented about was how much people spit in Hyderabad. The thought had never really occurred to me or maybe it was the “anaesthesia” effect working. But after she told me, I began to  notice the rampant, pointless spitting everywhere! It’s actually really incredible. They spit wherever and whenever - even as they are driving, walking, cycling, and even talking! But surprisingly or maybe not, it kind of reminded me of the same scenario here in Nagaland. As much as I’d like to think we are much better off than that, there is a possibility that we can give them fierce competition.

On a positive note, however, we do have exceptions to our case. I remember visiting a village in Nagaland that proved there still is, fortunately, some amount of civic duty still intact. In order to ensure hygiene, large dustbins have been placed in and around the entire village. Another positive sign is the solar powered Higher and Technical Education building in Kohima and the recent renewable energy cycle drive. I think these are some of the positive steps that are already in place.  But there is obviously a lot more that can be done.
Until we begin to pro-actively feel a sense of responsibility, ownership and accountability to public amenities and property, we may never get our public hygiene right. Are the concerned authorities taking effective measures to curb the potential hazards? We build big beautiful offices, stores and buildings but do we really know what it takes to maintain them? Obviously, it is no easy task as can be seen from examples around the world. But the examples just go to show that stringent and more honest concerted efforts are required if we want to get the job done.

If you visit shopping malls in the cities or even abroad, you will find moppers constantly working the floor all day long. Enter the bathrooms and there will always be a washwoman standing ready to clean up the next mess. But in most cases, the public themselves know that they are not supposed to spit in the sink or throw trash in places other than wastebins. A northeastern state like Shillong is many times cleaner than our state capital Kohima.  

While we may like to profess about how clean we are spiritually, out worldly we show little concern for our environment. I think Nagas take the prize at being fashionably and impeccably dressed but fail miserably in transmitting that energy  beyond the individual self. What point is it if we have clean clothes, clean shoes, clean selves but don’t have the public space that allows us to make us feel as if we were sitting down in our homes  (our homes are always clean). We are completely oblivious to the amount of proliferating germs that we are so generously welcoming into our streets, our towns and villages.      

Honestly, I don’t think our body’s immune powers are that robust to be able to withstand the ill effects of our poor sanity measures and the degenerating environment for so long either. The key thing to work on is changing our mindset. When we finally decide that enough is enough and each of us do our part - looking after public property and avoid littering - maybe we’ll see the change we want to see.    

The Missing Principles in Naga Society - Zuchano Khuvung, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Moral and ethical values as social categories are crucial for generating a sound culture in any given society. However, people tend t...