Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Hidden Bullies: Fighting the Odds - Kvulo Lorin, Director of Administration

"If you fell down yesterday, stand up today."
- H. G. Wells


Hidden Bullies: Fighting the Odds

Malala Yousafza, was only 15 years old when she was shot point blank in the head and neck in her own school bus for daring to defy the Taliban’s call against girls going to school. This happened in October 2012 in Pakistan. This young girl was often the only one who would answer reporters’ questions and had actually even dared to say on camera “They cannot stop me. I will get my education if it is my home, school or any place. This is our request to all  the world. Save our schools. Save our world. Save our Pakistan.” Fortunately, the assassination bid failed and she survived. Using religion as a pretext, the Taliban has banned many things like television, movies, music and education for girls – the reason for which Malala was shot.  "We do not tolerate people like Malala speaking against us," a Taliban spokesman told CNN after the shooting.


The Taliban probably wanted to silence and intimidate anyone else who would dare defy their diktats but instead, the opposite happened. They only made her voice stronger and awaken the many silent Pakistani voices against the violent and intimidation tactics of the Pakistan Taliban. Today, Malala is a symbol of courage and conviction for the world, nominated by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people, she will also address the United Nations on July 12 this year and is the youngest person to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in history.

According to Edmund Burke on politics: "Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument (compensation) from it, even though but for one year, can never willingly abandon it." Power can not only become an intoxicant but if mishandled can lead to different forms of oppression or bullying. Bullies exist everywhere, especially in regions of conflict. However, they don’t necessarily need to be carrying a gun. The bully might turn out to be your boss, the interviewer at a job interview, a husband or wife or even a society that forces you to act and behave hypocritically for the sake of appearances. It reminds me of a few interviews I have attended where certain Interviewers would insult applicants or humiliate them as the applicants begged for a job. We also see many big shots who feel they need to be treated differently, can’t walk around without security guards and require traffic to be cleared and halted even if it inconveniences the public.

Sadly the bullies can exist even in our classrooms. Our Naga society has evolved from a rote learning system which has always discouraged younger people from questioning elders. Many people from the 70’s and 80’s grew up in an environment where the teacher would carry a stick to class. A wrong answer could mean a whack on the hand or red whelps on the buttocks. In certain cases the students are expected to reproduce exactly what the teacher has given in his notes or else receive less marks.

Premier colleges like St. Stephen’s Delhi are not immune to this, according to Thane Richard in his article “Academic Excellence and St. Stephen’s College: A response” posted on www.kafila.org. He writes, “In one economic history class the professor would enter the room, take attendance, open his notebook, and begin reading.  He would read his notes word for word while we, his students, copied these notes word for word until the bell sounded.  Next class he would find the spot where the bell had interrupted him, like a storyteller reading to children and trying to recall where he had last put down the story.  He would even pause slightly at the end of a long sentence to give us enough time to finish writing before he moved on.” In this type of environment, it is difficult to visualize a classroom full of students actively engaged with the teacher in discussions and clarification of doubts, not only because of our non-questioning upbringing but also because the boundaries have already been set by our ‘superiors’.  

Coming closer home, it’s interesting to see where education stands. The government has made a lot of effort to ensure that children go to school by introducing mid-day meal schemes and hiring the most qualified teachers. However, in spite of all this we know there is a large gap in the execution of the government policies owing to a multitude of factors. Though government institutions usually have the most qualified teachers, the better results from private institutes sort of prove that there are factors beyond just qualifications in the teaching and learning process.

I do believe that right here in Nagaland we have many Malala’s who are courageous and are determinedly pursuing education no matter how difficult. I know of a student who exemplifies this courage through the arduous route she travels every year to pursue higher studies. The student first has to travel 2 hours from her village to the nearest town. Apparently there are times when they have to walk and it takes eight hours by foot! From that town it takes another four hours to reach the district headquarters. From the district headquarters she must travel overnight to reach Dimapur and reach Tetso College. What was even more touching was her confession that till class 7 she couldn’t speak or understand English because all her previous teachers only taught in nagamese. Today she is one of the hardest working students and regularly tops the class.

While India as a whole struggles to implement its Right to Education policy - Delhi University works to implement a 4 year integrated undergraduate (BA/Bsc/Bcom) course(all over India it takes only 3 years) - Nagaland in particular needs to look in the mirror and take a closer look at what we need to work on apart from education.

Every day we read about the many problems in the newspaper. I know there are many more injustices and wrongs which don’t even make it to the paper. The blatant hypocrisy with which we live our lives showing disregard to laws and partiality to tribal and village, kith and kin are development pangs we need to overcome. Power and wealth are flaunted by what seems to be a well connected elite eager to live in a world of appearances with flashy cars and skewed aspirations equivalent to citizens of the developed world. The majority seem ever ready to indulge in whatever helps to elevate their personal standard of living at the cost of others.

Malala, a 15 year old girl stood up for educating the girl child. Our society needs to know the rights we deserve, but wisely too and without misappropriating them or taking advantage of the fissures in the system. Instead of focusing on the things we can’t do, it might be time to look at the things we can do. Amidst this daunting scenario where bullies, oppression and gold-diggers and more exist, maybe it’s time to wake up and prioritize what is really important and lend support to those institutions which are courageous and dedicated enough to make a difference. This is our state, our town and this is our home, whether we like it or not. It is not the Indian Government, foreign agencies, or outsiders who must stand up and make the necessary sacrifices required for our own people... its you and me.  We need to take responsibility in fixing our own problems because many of the problems actually begin and end with us.

“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 NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org 

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