DoSE outlines steps to tackle issues in Nagaland’s education sector
KOHIMA — The state Department of School Education (DoSE) on Tuesday outlined the challenges it faces in the education sector, with one of the most pressing issues being the severe shortage of teachers, particularly in subjects like Mathematics, Science, and Hindi.
During a consultative meeting with student bodies including the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), the Eastern Naga Students’ Federation (ENSF), at the Capital Convention Centre in Kohima, department officials led by DoSE advisor, Dr. Kekhrielhoulie Yhome highlighted the issues as well as the steps taken to alleviate the situation.
To address this shortfall, Dr. Yhome said the department plans to undertake ‘extensive recruitment’ efforts, including sourcing teachers from outside the state if necessary.
He said that the department is in discussion with the Nagaland Staff Selection Board (NSSB) and the Nagaland Public Service Commission (NPSC) to recruit the teachers. However, there are not enough qualified Mathematics, Science and Hindi teachers.
While priority will be given to qualified candidates of the state, the department will have to bring in from outside the state if it is not enough, he said, requesting the student bodies to understand the complexities.
Further, the advisor said that out of the 9691 total primary teachers in Nagaland, 2644 primary teachers are from the Sumi community, 1559 are Aos, 840 Konyaks and 710 primary teachers are Angamis.
“This implies that for the next 10 years, we will not be recruiting Sumi and Ao primary teachers. We will now be recruiting based on linguistic district categories. These are some of the logistics we are working on to give a sense of equitable representation,” he explained.
He went on to add that the department has captured all the data and is ready to formulate policy.
‘Will shut down some schools‘
The advisor said the department would shut down some schools across the state as it is impossible to have around 2000 schools for a 1.50 lakh student population.
As of January 2024, there are 31,063 teachers in Nagaland with 18,725 government teachers and 12,338 private school teachers. Based on December 2023 data, there are 1.50 lakh students in government establishments and 2.59 lakh students in private schools.
The advisor questioned the practicality of having schools with only five students and said that the department would create a ‘feeder system’ through which students from those schools can be accommodated elsewhere.
More than one school in a village can be merged, he added.
Dr. Yhome underscored that Nagaland’s status as state with the highest student dropout rate is a matter of great concern. He acknowledged that there is “no trust in our school system” because of the subject teacher shortage, but assured that the department has evaluated its strength.
After the department’s rationalisation exercise, 55% of the schools that are without these subject teachers will be able to obtain them, he maintained.
60% of schools on the verge of closure
Government schools in the state are categorised into four groups— A (full enrolment), B (enrolment of 25 to 99%), C with subtypes c1, c2, and c3 (enrolment below 25%), and D (no enrolment), and only 14.55% of schools in Nagaland are in category A. Unfortunately, there are 7.77% of schools in the D category, that is, schools without enrolment, the advisor said.
Under the C category, which is further divided into three types, 60% of the schools are on the verge of collapse, or closure, he said, adding that this is a huge concern because most Nagas live in the village.
Dr. Yhome also highlighted some of the challenges faced by teachers, including accommodation issues in their places of posting. In this connection, he said that the department is no position to provide accommodation, but is thinking about taking the help of respective churches or villages. He also requested the student bodies to extend their support in this regard.
He also clarified that there is nothing called a ‘transfer with post’ and no tribe teacher quota system. As far as primary teachers are concerned, they have to be confined within their jurisdiction, he said.
YAA ‘refuses’ to attend meeting
In the context of the demands put up by the Yimkhiung Akheru Arihako (YAA), advisor Yhome said that some of their requirements are solvable immediately while some are not.
While the YAA members reportedly ‘refused’ to attend the meeting, they demanded the provision of teachers to all 63 schools within the region but teacher recruitment takes time, he said, while assuring that the department is going to review everything and it should eventually come step by step.
The advisor said the matter is within the education department and interfering in other departments may make things blow out of proportion.
Tsupithong, the Economics and Statistical Officer, said that out of 894 high school, middle and higher secondary schools in Nagaland, 620 have a graduate Maths teacher, but 274 do not. Similarly, 704 schools have a graduate Science teacher, but 189 do not. This results in a shortfall of 353 Maths teachers and 161 Science teachers.
There are excess primary teachers too but when it is broken down, there are shortages in some pockets and excess in some, he said.
Nagaland has 725 Maths graduates, 917 Science graduates, and 152 Hindi graduates, 3073 graduates in general subjects including English. Additionally, there are 127 language teachers, 107 pre-primary teachers, and 9170 primary teachers, the officer said.
Rationalisation exercise to address some issues
Meanwhile, Commissioner and Secretary of School Education and SCERT, Kevileno Angami, said the department is faced with various issues including legacy, excess schools, besides shortage of subject teachers. However, she was hopeful that the department’s rationalisation exercise would be able to address some of the issues.
Acknowledging that the shortage might continue even after the exercise, she urged the student bodies to bear with the department as the recruitment process would take time. Post creation or upgradation has to go through the Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms, she added.
She noted that trainings are required for teachers to upgrade their knowledge and said that the department would ‘work out and see if we can go to the block and conduct training instead of them coming to the capital.’
She also stated that counselling in schools is a “much-needed position,” and that the department is in discussions with the Oriental Theological Seminary in Bade about providing counsellors and some volunteers on a pilot basis. Aside from that, the SCERT is offering a one-year diploma course in counselling to teachers who will be placed in government schools.
Regarding special educators, the commissioner stated that it is currently feasible in Nagaland because educators must be certified by the Rehabilitation Council of India.
‘Outside interference’ in rationalisation
During the meeting, ENSF President Chingmak Chang claimed that even after the rationalisation exercise conducted in a few years ago, 50% of the teachers are retained due to “outside interference.” There should not be any interference by the political leaders and there should not be any bias in rationalisation exercise, he asserted.
He also expressed concern about the short tenures of district and sub-divisional education officers, stating that these officers are generally given placements on the verge of retirement, and they must ‘run after the retirement procedures’ rather than working for the students’ welfare.
NSF president Medovi Rhi said that the School Education sector should not be considered as an employment sector but should be treated as a human resource sector. One should not compromise the welfare of the students, he said.
Representatives from other student bodies like the Chang Students’ Conference, Sangtam Students’ Conference, Dimapur Naga Students’ Union, Zeliang Students’ Union, and Tikhir Students’ Union, among others, raised several issues including excessive teacher training programmes, teachers with strong political inclinations being transferred out of remote areas, transfer without replacement, lack of infrastructure, and proxy teachers, to name a few.
Principal Director of School Education Thavaseelan K informed that the department has removed the system of teachers being ‘attached’ to political leaders, and DEO and SDEO offices, and encouraged the student bodies to report to the department if they come across such instances.