Northeast's biggest crisis is right before us, but we prefer to act blind
Churachandpur Medical College

One of the worst aspects of reporting conflict is not what we write but what we conveniently forget to write about. Manipur has been burning for the past month, and amid all the destruction it continues to witness, one can only imagine what must be going through all those enrolled in the state’s educational institutes. Will Kuki students be able to share a classroom without any fear, anger or prejudice against Meitei students and vice versa? Did you know that before it became known for all the ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ reasons, Churachandpur was witnessing something path-breaking?

The Churachandpur Medical College had, after years, finally become a reality and the students were enjoying their first year. 

But why am I, among all possible things, talking about education in Manipur right now? Surely, it is not the most pressing issue in the state right now. 

Well, as it turns out, if the recently released National Institute Ranking Framework is to be believed (and why would you not), even if Manipur had not been witnessing an ethnic crisis, its educational institutes would have fared no better. 

But even more worryingly, the states not witnessing any violence are also not faring any better, and even a cursory look at the NIRF rankings shows that when it comes to education, the Northeast of India is not even in the same century, let alone decade, compared to other regions.

Here are some startling revelations from the NIRF Rankings. 

YouTube video

But first, a caveat: in this conversation, I will not be talking about the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati because as great as an institute it might be, it is not a ‘local’ institute. 

Even if one were to count Central universities like Tezpur University (TU) in this conversation, the situation does not seem very promising. TU performed poorly and bagged only the 69th rank in the Top 100 University rankings. The North-East Hill University also performed below average with a rank of 80. 

Gauhati University, however, is Assam’s pride. So, where does it come on the list? 88th. Mizoram University, in comparison, did slightly better, 76th, but then that is also a central university. 

And that is it. The Northeast, home to over 45 million people, has one state-level university in the Top 100, and it is nowhere near the top.

But if you think things couldn’t get any worse, listen to this: of the top 100 colleges, the Northeast (and again, barring IIT Guwahati) has one college on the list. Pachhunga University College is the only entrant from the Northeast, at a commendable 34th rank, even outranking famous Delhi colleges like the Jesus and Mary College. Now, EastMojo had done a video on Pachhunga’s stellar achievements last year (when it had been ranked 45th) too and you should consider watching it too to understand how one college in Mizoram, a state with a little over a million people, is defying odds to beat heavyweights. 

Engineering colleges? Five from the northeast, all NITs. Medical colleges from the Northeast? Zero. 

Spare a thought for Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal and Sikkim though. These states did not even feature in the rankings. 

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Imagine being a student whose family can barely make ends meet, meaning that studying even in Guwahati, let alone Delhi, Kolkata or the South of India is a dream. You have no choice but to study in state universities which seemingly are more interested in welcoming politicians and telling teachers what to wear instead of imparting quality education. The disaster that is education in Nagaland has been well documented on our site: one may even say that no state’s education suffered as much as Nagaland’s. Now, imagine you manage to somehow escape poverty, indifference and apathy and make it to a university which is not even close to being top-class. By the time you have graduated, the gap between you and someone studying in Delhi would be too big to bridge, meaning you become yet another person with inadequate education. 

I do not want to sound like a pessimist, although when I see data like the ones above it becomes difficult to not be one. The region’s youth has been crying out loud for better education facilities and a chance to compete on equal footing with the rest of the country. Yet, it seems we are destined to remain second, or third grade when it comes to education. Manipur’s conflict might still come to an end, but the crisis brewing in our education sector is something that will impact far more people and in far worse manners. I, however, doubt if our politicians are listening: after all, when did we vote based on a leader’s promise to students? 

Also Read | EastMojo’s Manipur stories: Criticise our work, but don’t call us dishonest

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