Education in Tangkhul Nagas Region

Education in Tangkhul Nagas Region
By: U A Shimray

The Genesis Rev. William Pettigrew was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1869. He was educated in Livingstone College, London, and had nine month of special medical training. At the early age, he accepted the challenge to go to the foreign field. The Arthington Aborigines Mission, a mission fostered by Mr. Robert Arthington, a millionaire of Leeds, England [A Mission established for the spread of word of God among the primitive tribes] accepted to sponsor Pettigrew. He left England for India in 16 December 1890 and then came to Cachar, Assam in 1891.

He applied for permission to enter Manipur to work among the Manipuri Hindus, but it was not until January 1894, that permission was granted. Mr. Pettigrew immediately went to Imphal, and began his work by opening a school for Manipuri boys and to establish permanent Mission Station. The school opened by Pettigrew in Manipur was at Singjamei Imphal, and was called Pettigrew School [MK Shimray (1967), “Tangkhul Miwurlung”]. However, within six months, the British Authorities decided against allowing Mission work among the Manipuri Hindus of the valley, and was instead given permission to take up “at his own risk” among the Tangkhul Nagas in the hills.

On other hand, the sponsorship given by the Arthington Mission was not willing to establish a permanent mission station in any particular place. So the dilemma for the Pettigrew is to leave Manipur for other place or be sent home (England). Therefore, having no alternative, he thus applied for membership to the American Baptist Missionary Union in Assam. Subsequently, he was redesingnated as a Baptist missionary to Manipur. Pettigrew only change the Christian denomination from the Anglican to the Baptist only for his mission and interest.

Pettigrew reached Ukhrul on October 1895. He starts his Ukhrul Mission School No. 12 on February 11, 1896. The reason of calling the school No. 12 is that the soon he reached Imphal many school were established and the Ukhrul School came the 12th number. “He first came in touch with Mr. Raihao, the Chief of Ukhrul Village. The Missionary immediately proposed to open one school but the superstitious Chief refused to comply with the proposal saying that the Tangkhul script was written on animal skin but a dog ran away with it and was eaten up and therefore it was a foolish thing to think of education. The Missionary replied that he had met the dog on the way and had brought back the script-skin to them” [Jonah and Mahangthei (1986) “40 Years in Manipur: An account of the work of Rev & Mrs. William Pettigrew”].

The parents did not like to send their children to School. At first Pettigrew approach the village elders and asked for 30 children to enroll his school. But the villagers ignored his request. He approached to A.E. Wood, the Political Agent when he visited Ukhrul. The Political Agent gave a very stringent order that the Chief of Ukhrul must provide 20 children and the village Hundung with 10 children. Fearing the order the two villages provides the 30 children to Pettigrew. The Ukhrul Chief Raihao himself enrolled the school and act as the interpreter and without him the children refused to go to school.

The children who first enrolled in Mr. Pettigrew’s Mission School are: 1. Raihao, 2. Kuipang, 3. Ramkaiphang, 4. Holei, 5. Maninglum, 6. Kaphungkui, 7. Thisan, 8. Mangaleng, 9. Shangam, 10. Sakhayang, 11. Fasing, 12. Hamring, 13. Heitheng, 14. Khungsan, 15. Sangmayang, 16. Mapha, 17. Sakho, 18. Pheikho, 19. Yuishi, 20. Yarnao, 21. Haora, 22. Thisa, 13. Makheishai, 14. Luiraphang, 15. Mashokring, 16. Theingai, 17. Ngakap, 18. Changkar, 19. Shimkhaye and 30. Thitei (Source: MK Shimray’s “Miwurlung”).

By 1899, the students of the Ukhrul LP School started learning English language. In 1901, 12 (Twelve) boys from the Mission School were baptized. This includes 1. Rumthao Hollei, 2. Kashung Sangmayang, 3. Samrar Ramkaiphang, 4. Shaiza Leishisan, 5. Kashung Maninglung, 6. Shaiza Mangaleng, 7. Langtangvanao Sakhayang, 8. Kasarnao Shangam, 9. Chiphang Kaphungkui (all from Ukhrul), 10. M. Haora, 11. K. Mashokring, and 12. SK. Thisho (all from Hundung).

In 1903, two best students were selected and train them as teacher. They are Mr. Hamring and Mr. Heitheng. The later recruits 15 children from Ukhrul and they are: 1. Mishak, 2. Kanrei, 3. Vareichung, 4. Raiton, 5. Shaivi, 6. Changkhareng I, 7. Changkhareng II, 8. Horhai, 9. Shangkhatit, 10. Yangla, 11. Veikhok, 12. Chapthai, 13. Moreiphung, 14. Vareisai and 15. Shangnang. From the Hundung village, the following persons are enrolled 1. Shangmahing, 2. Ningchui, 3. Yomzang I, 4. Yomzang II, 5. Seikhang, 6. Ningpai, 7. Makharing, 8. Malumchi, 9. Namza, 10. Khoreileng, 11. Vareisui, 12. Kachang, 13. Sanmayang, 14. Vareichin and 15. Pheishir (Source: MK Shimray, 1967: 115). The Oja [Teacher in Meiteilon] Gokul Singh also teach along with the Tangkhul teachers. The Headmaster and teachers received their pay from the State. In Hundung, Mr. Heitheng started LP School and himself being the Head-pandit. At that time, Manipuri teachers from Sibsagar, Cachar and Sylet like Pundit Jonmejoy, Mongolsingh, Nana Singh, and Prophular help Pettigrew. When Mr. and Mrs. Pettigrew took furlough from 1903 November to 1905 December, the School was looked after by Mr. Gokul Singh.

With the request of the Manipur’s Political Agent, Rev. William Pettigrew acted as honorary Inspector of School from 1897-1903. He inspects both the Valley and the Hill thrice a year. In this period he managed to establish many schools in valley, appoint teachers and arranged the curriculum. When he relinquished this work and to go on furlough in 1903, there are 28 Schools and 23 textbooks translated from Bengali to Manipuri and composed to fit the curriculum.

Usham, Dhananjoy’s (2005) article “Education: It’s Genesis and Progress in Ukhrul District” (Legacy, Vol. 3 No. 3, May-June) mentioned that- “The school started on its career of usefulness and influence from 1906. With the help and encouragement of the political Agent, Colonel J. Shakespeare, village Schools were opened on a thrice a year basis in about a dozen villages of the Tangkhul and manned by class VI young men from the school whose salaries were paid by the State. Along with this scheme, another important arrangement was made with the political Agent viz., bringing to this school two boys from each village where no village school had been established.” In 1906-07, there were eight LP Schools in the Tangkhul Nagas region. One school at Ukhrul was under the direct control of Rev. William Pettigrew. The rest are under the control of his former students. The schools are established at: 1. Chingjaroi, 2. Paoyi, 3. Huining, 4. Talloi, 5. Phadang, 6. Nungbi, 7. Nambashi, and 8. Khangkhui.

Mrs. Pettigrew concerned the need of education for girls. She took fourteen years to make ‘appreciable impression’ and convince the parents to send their daughter for schooling. In 1906, Mrs. Pettigrew managed to persuade ten girls from different villages to come to Ukhrul for schooling. They are 1. A. Ngalew, 2. A. Charani, 3. A. Kasuni, 4. A. Asera [all from Chingjaroi village], 5. Sanamla, 6. Harngaila, 7. Lasengla, 8. Mahongai [all from Ukhrul], 9. Shurila and 10. Langzarla [all from Paoyi]. Subsequently, these girls were converted into Christian.

Withering Education!
A century ago, in 1896, Rev. William Pettigrew taught his first class of 30 pupils in a little hut in Ukhrul village. What is taught on that fateful day is lost in the history but it marked the beginning of modern education in the history of the Tangkhul Nagas. It serves as a springboard to the rapid growth of modern education. The first educated generations immensely work hard to spread education beyond the Ukhrul. The pioneering work of the first generation produced many eminent personalities in the region. Pettigrew’s pioneering work undoubtedly had innumerable impact on socio-economic and political systems. Firstly, he sowed the seed of education and inspired Christian doctrine. Thus, a process begun by one man and his 30 pupils was to go on to change the lives of many men and women.

Hundred Years Now, since modern education system first set foot in Tangkhul Naga region. But the region still doesn’t have reputed schools and colleges. The only Government College that Ukhrul nurture is “Pettigrew College” [Here, I should not mention the ‘educational quality’ of the College]. Due to the poor quality of education many “economically viable” parents are sending their children outside the district or state. However, larger number of students left no choice but to continue their studies in the incompetent schools and colleges in Ukhrul.

The Ukhrul town is the main hobnob of the Tangkhul Nagas in term of education, economic and politics. In recent times, we notice considerable number of private schools blooming in Ukhrul. Many young boys and girls from different villages come here to get “better” education. However, one may have second thought on considering the condition of school in Ukhrul. Many schools are not facilitating the basic minimum infrastructure [No doubt, every year the number of Schools are increasing]. Not only the physical infrastructure also, lack of competent human resources. For instance, the symptom of teacher absent, irregular classes, and indiscipline is very much prevails in many schools [read as incurable disease for government schools]. In private schools there are lots of ‘commercial fishy’ business is happening like extra paid tutoring, fee hike, limitless number intake of students, imbalance teacher student ratio, poorly trained teachers, low salary and poor facilities.

Today, educational system is becoming too examination-centric and quantification rather than quality approach. The common people tend to measure the quality of education through the performance in annual Metric examination. And also measure the quality of education with the number of candidate got through in First Division [vis-à-vis total strength of student in school]. But we seldom evaluate the overall performance of the school right from the basic minimum infrastructure to quality output of students and teachers. Many of our teachers are not equip enough to deliver good services rather make themselves “part-time” teacher on their own convenience way. Needlessly, school authorities do not pay adequate salary to the deserving teachers especially private run schools.

So, to ensure good education, teacher must be equipped enough to deliver competent services. One important thing about teacher is to uphold the commitment. Commitment means to perform his or her professional duty enthusiastically with the sense of responsibility and dignity. So that, outcome has to be accountable to the society as well as overall socio-economic development. No doubt, our society has produced high literate population but few educated persons.

The query here are we not harvesting enough what Pettigrew sowed for us! Today, the society is facing serious social and political turmoil. The ‘divisive forces’ are acting upon to kill the well-knitted communitarian tradition… for instance, rivalry in religious institution, growing distant among the NGOs and civil societies. Indeed, such ‘social erosion’ can be arrested when there is good quality of education.


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