Nagaland: Students call off protest in Tuensang

Kohima: If you tell college students that classes would only take place on alternate days, they will surely call out your bluff. If you told them that their college would not have a principal, they are likely to express joy for a few minutes, followed by a sudden realisation: what kind of college does not have a principal?  

This is the sad reality of students of the Sao Chang College in the Tuensang district of Nagaland.

‘One of the oldest colleges of Nagaland’

Records tell that the erstwhile Tuensang College began as a ‘Night College’ (Arts) in 1973. After it was promoted to a regular day-shift college, the state government took over in April 1983 and introduced the Science stream in 2005.

In 1996, the college, which was in Tuensang town, received its own permanent campus about 9 kilometres from the town, surrounded by the mountain ranges.

Recognised as one of the oldest colleges in Nagaland, the co-ed college is affiliated with Nagaland University and is the only Arts and Science College in the district.

But on October 12, the college doors were shut after students protested against the state government. Led by the Chang Wedoshi Setshang (CWS), the apex student body of the Chang Naga tribe, the students pressed a four-charter demand.

With no response from the government, the protest intensified on Wednesday as the student body launched its second phase of agitation-shutting down all government departmental offices within the district till their demands were fulfilled.

Students demand only what is fair

Speaking to EastMojo, CWS general secretary Sanglekhamba informed that the college has been functioning without a principal for the past four years. He said a principal was deputed for a few months but was transferred with no replacement.

The first phase of its agitation began on October 12 when the student body closed down the college. A day later, hundreds of students in their uniforms took to the street to press their demands.

The students have been demanding the appointment of a principal in the college. The absence of a principal has created “untold hardships” in the functioning of the college as per the students.

Another demand is the shortage of teachers. The college has, as per records, 688 students. However, the college suffers from an acute shortage of teaching faculty. Sanglekhamba said in the Science department, there is only one assistant professor for mathematics and two each for the other subjects.

Faculty shortage meant the college had no provision for a major subject in the science stream, compelling all science students to only opt for general subjects.

The students have been demanding more teachers in the college for both streams. In May 2023, the college submitted its representation asking for more teachers. Additionally, the students also demanded more non-teaching staff in the college.

One more demand of the students is to increase the number of college buses. The present strength of four buses for over 600 students, he said, is insufficient. As the college is located in the suburbs of Tuensang town, students and teachers are compelled to attend classes every alternate day.

Sanglekhamba said that one batch of students attend only 2-3 days of classes. This has also made it difficult for the teaching faculty to cope with the syllabus on time.

Its final demand is to upgrade the science laboratory. The student body observed that with NEP and CBCS, students must opt for a major subject. The shortage of teachers and unavailability of lab equipment has made it difficult for the college to introduce major subjects.

Government remains a mute spectator

The student leader said they had made several submissions to the concerned department by the college students, CWS and the Eastern Nagaland Students’ Union (ENCSU). 

In the wake of the ongoing protest, a video conference was held at the deputy commissioner’s office with the student body and officials of the Department of Higher and Technical Education on Tuesday. 

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Sanglekhamba informed that despite a lengthy deliberation, the government failed to give any assurance to their demands. 

Following the deadlock, the second phase of their agitation began on Wednesday when government departmental offices in the district were shut. 

Schools and higher secondary, district administration, police department, medical department and fire & emergency department remain exempted. The shutdown of other government establishments will continue till the demands of the students are fulfilled, as per CWS.

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