Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Memoirs of a Student Leader - Dr. P.S. Lorin, Principal

“We should stick and stand up for each other but we should not overdo it, such that we alienate ourselves from students of other communities. For those living in the metros or even in towns like Dimapur and Kohima, you have to grow up quicker and be street smart to survive and succeed. You are not studying with only another Naga or tribal, you are actually studying with some of the brightest, strongest and self-driven people in the world.” 
– Musings from a former
student leader


I shudder at times when I recall how I finally landed up in Delhi in the 70’s. I was young, had only  Rs. 500 in my pocket and did not know a soul in Delhi. My train arrived early and I went straight to the University to take admission, without a clue about where I would be staying in Delhi. I would have been in big trouble, if I had not met a fellow Naga student named Luingam Luithui, who took me in and helped  me get set on my feet. I am forever grateful to him for that act of kindness 

I believe this is an example of how we Nagas took care of each other in the early days. Nagas who came to Delhi were always welcomed and treated as family by other Nagas. During this period (1974-78), the political situation in Nagaland was still stormy and Naga patriotism was also vibrant and clearly visible. It was also a time when it was easy to meet Naga politicians, top bureaucrats and businessmen who came to the capital for work. This served a boon to the Naga Students Union Delhi, as the Union played a crucial role those days. In retrospect, this leverage probably influenced a lot of decisions and even helped to formulate them.

One year after arriving in Delhi, I was chosen as the consensus candidate to be the President of Naga Students Union Delhi in 1975. We had a good team and worked hard. While there were certainly shortcomings on our part, I would like to think that we also had many accomplishments. Of these accomplishments, we were able to achieve them only because of the unity, cooperation and discipline of the hardworking members. 

Undoubtedly, globalisation has made the world a smaller place today, changing outlooks and mindsets. However, I will also not be surprised if some of you feel a sense of familiarity even today with my observations on the scenario during those days. Naga students in Delhi and some other parts of India were commonly mistaken to be foreigners because of our mongoloid features. The Nagas also had a social and cultural life quite different from the mainland Indians and therefore, we perceived each other differently, even as we lived on different levels of conservatism and broadmindedness all in the same breath. It was very rare to find an Indian who had heard of Nagaland, let alone know where it was located. As we struggled to establish our identity in a city of millions, we were regularly bombarded with disturbing news from Nagaland. News of clashes between the Indian army and members of the Naga Political Movement and sometimes atrocities against civilians were a regular occurrence. These incidents always elicited anger and deep frustration against the Indian Government. Filled with Naga patriotism, many of the students boycotted UPSC civil service competitive exams, idealistically opting to wait and sit for the future Naga National Public Service (NNPS) competitive examinations once Nagaland supposedly attained its independence. 

Against this backdrop of political turmoil and our search for a Naga identity the NSUD helped form the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR). The NPMHR worked to specifically tackle Armed Forces Special powers Act of 1958 and other draconian laws prevailing in Naga Areas. 

It was an uphill task to organize ourselves in the absence of mobile phones, and landlines which sometimes failed to work. Just like any organization, there were differences of opinion and minute feelings of tribalism rearing its ugly head. Today, looking back at where we are now, I cannot say we were successful in everything we did. But I do know we were able to highlight a lot of our problems to many mainland student leaders. Some of them were Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, student leaders during our time who are now members of the Communist Party of India.
I hope to see our Naga student bodies continue to promote and celebrate our success as a people in the many dynamic cities and locations they are located. In my opinion, one very important role for a lot of the student bodies in the cities and the towns is to build ties and create friendship with non-Nagas, particularly with mainland Indians. Many of the student leaders in the capital or the colleges you are studying in may be the future leaders of the country and building these bridges now would surely pay dividends in the future. We should stick and stand up for each other but we should not overdo it, such that we alienate ourselves from students of other communities. As a student body you function with constraints. You should remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that any organisation is accountable to the people it represents. I wish to see every one of you to hold impeccable integrity so that you earn respect, trust and the confidence of others. 

Today, we live in a different era. There are more options for employment than just the government, access to information and communication that has been unprecedented and widespread education to help surpass anything that the earlier Nagas had achieved. My message is for each and every student. You have many more advantages than your fathers ever did. For those living in the metros or even in towns like Dimapur and Kohima, you have to grow up quicker and be street smart to survive and succeed. You are not studying with only another Naga or tribal, you are actually studying with some of the brightest, strongest and self-driven people in the world. Do not let us, your parents and yourself down.
 
“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.org”

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Under Pressure: When You Can’t Think or Write - Kahor Raleng, Asst. Prof. English


The pressure is on. Over the next few months, the academic fate of many students who are appearing their exams will be decided. Are we helping or making it worse? As teachers and parents, we need to reflect on the kind of support we are giving our children when they are under pressure to perform well.


Under Pressure: When You Can’t Think or Write

As I sat down to write this article (under a lot of pressure, undoubtedly), my mind just went blank. Remember, I was under a lot of pressure before I even sat down. It was like being a student all over again, sitting in the exam hall, thinking what to write. What is it with stress, pressure and performance! Does pressure or stress really affect our performance? Obviously it does, since I still haven’t come up with this very important question of pressure and performance.

Its exam time again! The most important time of the year, at least for the students and the teachers. As a teacher, this is the most dreaded time of the year, yet the most awaited. At the beginning of each year, I start having sleepless nights, anxiety and stress, since my teaching will be put into test during the next few weeks. Over the years I have come to accept the fact that nothing really happens the way I want. The supposedly good students fall under pressure, the supposedly bad students outshine under no pressure. And this has made me realise that pressure or expectations plays a major role in a student’s performance.

Let’s face it; we are all humans, even our students. We have all been there and we know how it feels when we see disappointment or joy writ on the faces of our parents or teachers. Are our expectations pressuring them too much that they buckle under the pressure of our great expectations?

Some people can take expectations and work it to their advantage, whereas for others it becomes a form of emotional blackmail that hampers their development. Over expectations can be very disastrous when not handled well. But for the optimist it can propel them to heights of greatness.

I had a student once, who was the topper in class 11. He was so good that we took it for granted that he would surely make it to our expectations. He was supposed to be our shining star. But when the results eventually came out, our expectation turned into disappointment. I still haven’t recovered from that disappointment. When I reflect back on what might have gone wrong, it’s very puzzling. But one thing is clear; he could not handle the pressure that he was in.

Then there is this case of another child who was below average. He was the most well behaved boy, the most decent student and loved by all the students and teachers as well. He never missed a class, unless it was extremely urgent. He was always so attentive in class. But he was very poor in his studies. Nobody expected much from him. In fact, he was so poor that the teachers silently thought that it would not be too surprising if he failed. Instead, if he passed, that would be considered a miracle. We did not pressure him because we knew his capacity. He was guided in the best possible way but there were no great expectations. Eventually, when the results were declared he got through. We still call him our miracle boy. I still glow out of happiness when I think about him.

As an educator, with several years of experience, I have come to the realisation that over expectation can at times have a very negative impact. Sometimes it’s best for the students to have a relaxed environment and enjoy the learning process. Of course that’s not always true with each individual. Some people bring out their best when they are motivated through the expectations of parents, teachers or peers. But we should know their capacity and their levels of IQ before we push them to give their best.

Understanding each individual student is a difficult task especially for large classrooms. And there is always room for committing mistakes. We should just trust our instincts and push where necessary or step back and give room when needed.

This write-up is a product of my own experience and not some research work carried out by me or anyone else. So it should not be taken as the whole truth. But I believe many of us have had similar experiences and will agree with me to a certain extent. It may also help us to think twice when we start expecting too much from someone because ultimately, we are all humans and not some kind of beings with super powers. So the next time your student or child prepares to face an exam, let’s try to sit back more comfortably, relax and most importantly pray for them.
                           
     “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.org” 
        


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Peace Education In Nagaland - Temsukumla Ao, Asst. Prof Sociology

“We want peace!” Slogans such as this are heard not just in Nagaland but all over the world. Nagaland has its own share of problems to resolve, starting from the peace process to tribal conflicts, factional clashes, crimes and more. Yes, peace and not war, is at the heart of what every nation, state, city and home desires. So how can we fight this losing battle against war?


Peace Education In Nagaland


All over the world, a great deal of emphasis is being placed upon ‘peace’. Similarly, in Nagaland the quest for ‘peace’ is strongly sought after. Peace has not only become a necessity, but the need of the hour. As rightly stated by Aristotle that we are social animals, the need for a peaceful environment becomes all the more great. In such a situation, are we, as an individual playing the role of a person who only knows the word peace, or are we someone who is trying to promote peace and inculcate the habit of creating a peaceful atmosphere?

According to the Oxford English dictionary, peace means “freedom from mental and spiritual disturbances”. Peace is not just the absence of war; it is the practice of love, being calm and feeling good mentally and emotionally. It consists of harmony, positive thoughts, non-violence, acceptance, fairness and compassion. It can be said that peace is one of the important characteristics of a civilized society.

On the other hand ‘Peace Education’, as stated by Fran Schmidt and Alice Friedman, is holistic; it embraces the physical, emotional, intellectual and social growth. It is based on a philosophy that teaches love, compassion, trust, fairness, co-operation and reverence for the human family and all life on our beautiful planet. Peace education is skill building. It empowers children to find creative and non-destructive ways to settle conflict and to live in harmony with themselves, others and their world. Peace building is the task of every human being and the challenge of the human family.

Already all too familiar with the fact that Nagaland is home to many different tribes, with varied outlook, practices even and different languages, Naga society has witnessed periodical cycles of war and peace. Naga peace talks are over a decade old now. The reconciliation between factions, regions, tribes and with neighbors in Naga society is a challenging prospect. In such a scenario, the need for peace education plays a vital role. As a result, we find that there are many peacemaking agencies in Nagaland from governmental to non-governmental and religious to social organizations. With the help of such agencies we should be able to impart peace education to the people of Nagaland, starting from the younger generation.

It has always been said that the younger generations are the future of tomorrow. Hence, peace education should start from schools. The introduction and teaching of peace education could be a pedestal upon which students, teachers as well as parents can draw inspiration to handle conflict in a non-violent manner. Educating the young minds with the notion of peace and its techniques are a must in every society. There is a growing need to realize that peace education plays an important role in each and everyone’s lives.

In this rapidly changing world, we need to look out for a new beginning, where humanity can live in peace, prosperity and harmony. Let peace not be like the fire extinguishers that are kept in the buildings with only a few knowing how to use it. But let us all learn how to use it, if and whenever there is fire. Likewise, let us also learn the technique and art of handling conflict in our society in a non-violent manner.

During elections this year, we witnessed different political parties making hefty promises and committing to their goals and objectives. The people voted, crying out for “Stability, Peace and Development”, finally with NPF emerging as the majority.

With a new government now in place, let us harbor positive hope that under their leadership, Naga society will move towards stability, peace and development. It is my sincere hope that this year, many new programmes will be implemented, starting from the schools and the youths taking active participation in promoting peace education in Nagaland.
 
“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.org” 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Helping The Government To Help Us - Hewasa Lorin, Director-Student Services

Nagaland has a new government and a lot of new faces too. Now it’s time for everyone to get to work, and fast! Our neighbouring states are advancing far ahead with four lane highways, quality educational institutes, power sufficiency and growing trade and commerce. If we are going to pull ourselves up, then the Government can’t do it alone. In our individual capacity we have to do as much, if not more.




Helping The Government To Help Us


You have to admire the way we have learned to be, for the most part in general I’d say, happy, given the political tensions and cultural transformations Nagas have undergone, not just in the recently conducted elections, but throughout the years. Here’s what I mean by happy. If anyone were to read about the history of the Nagas, it’s heartfelt. Colonial rule, followed by conversion to a new religion, education of a foreign language with new concepts and ideals, and now fighting for one’s own. There’s been so much of bloodshed, hurt and anger at the hands of outsiders and even amongst ourselves today.

To an outsider, who has never been to Nagaland, it reads horrific and frightening. But when you actually come to Nagaland, you realize it’s not all as it seemed. Nagaland has grown over the years and some amount of development has taken place, though it could be significantly better. We love to entertain, go out and have fun and we also have moments to be proud of- entrepreneurial achievements, talented musicians, sportsmen, artists, designers - and this is how we have come to define success for the Nagas. We have learned how to live happily, despite our troubled past and present, at least momentarily. 

But the admiration falls short when you look a little deeper. No doubt individual feats of greatness are praiseworthy, but that’s not enough for a developed and happier society. One reason why the United States has experienced centuries of greatness is because they worked with all their might. From pilgrims founding a colony to slaves and the Native American destiny, the United States was built on the backs of people who worked hard to fulfill their dreams. Now look at Nagaland. Today, we have both private and Government enterprises. A visit to both is enough to know the difference in management and efficiency. I don’t mean to say that private enterprise or ownership is the way to go. What I am referring to is our work culture. 

The recently concluded elections have resulted in the formation of a new Government. Attempting to overlook how botched and ugly a definition Nagaland gave to the conviction filled slogans of “Clean Election”, “One Man One Vote” and the whole notion of “democracy” altogether, we have a new government, and with it, mixed reactions willing to verge on hope. A hope that our leaders will feel how strongly the public wants a State with a prosperous future and development for all; not just a select few whose pockets can run bottomless and deep in earnest anticipation for the next elections. But in the losing battle against free and fair elections, this year’s election has shown us that the public are also equally to blame. Yet we cannot go on pointing fingers at each other anymore. We helped create the Government, so it is also ours to help make work. 

Many complain about mimicking the West and foreigners but if there is one thing that we can gladly afford to imitate, it is their work culture. We don’t even have to look too far beyond the oceans for this. The closest cities in India already have a pretty strong work culture in place.   

In Nagaland, I’ve come across Government offices shutting down by 1 o’clock, lunch breaks that go on for 3 hours or more, and some where employees do not turn up at all. Securing a Government job is synonymous with a hefty paycheck for a lighter workload. “Incentives” are usually expected, even demanded, to get the job done. It’s not unusual to see money being passed under the table, or to refer a big shot’s name or use well-connected sources for promotions or favours. With the exception of a few honest and diligent officials, the majority disappoint. It only reveals the value and respect we hold towards our jobs. Not to forget the damaging example we are setting for our kids and teenagers in schools and colleges.  

However, take the case of Nagas working outside of Nagaland. Visit the cities in India, and you’ll find a lot of hardworking and ambitious Nagas. In Hyderabad, I know many hardworking Naga working professionals. They work hard, sometimes even longer than the minimum required 8 or 9 hour work shift. They work hard and long for better promotions, better pay checks and better opportunities.  It’s not just Nagas, but everyone else too. True, there is probably a strong system that’s already in place, so there is not much room for complaint. But makes you wonder how that happened in the first place. The work ethic is so disciplined that it’d actually be a greater surprise if you saw someone stepping out of office by 1 pm. 

In fact, there are many who work even longer than 9 hours a day, because they are ambitious and some just love what they do. These people have a sense of accountability and responsibility for their jobs. Maybe this is why development takes place more rapidly, mindsets become broader, and there is room for productive engagement in offering opinions and dialogue. This is the kind of work culture Nagaland deserves and one which merits respect from others too. Not just working professionals but our students also need to develop this work ethic in class, during exams and even at home. With exams going on, it’s the right time to start.

‘Work’ is basically what we spend the other half of our life doing. How we do it, is a reflection of the kind of person we are and the society we shape. Most of us are already aware of our current laxity. We cry out for change and seek help from the Government for better jobs and more employment opportunities, but that’s going to be the least of our problems if we continue to find ourselves living for easy money and no productivity. If we want to see change in the Government, we also need to start working like our lives depended on it.
“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

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