Time is precious for students. Proper utilisation of time in the student life decides the future course of a student. It is their right to be able to devote enough time to learning. The government endorses it. That’s why the Right To Education (RTE) Act. RTE’s objective is to ensure that every child – rich or poor, rural or urban – gets access to education. But the very government, not to speak about others, violates the spirit of education by making students involved in rallies and processions remotely connected to the latter.

In Garo Hills of Meghalaya, students are seen these days on the streets ‘protesting’ the right of non-tribals living in the region to either vote or contest in the upcoming Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC). Whenever there is a protest, there is no school that day. It happens mostly with government schools where the so-called student organisations have greater influence. Students as young as class VII-VIII are made to be part of the protest rallies. After all it’s a number game. Apparently, very few of the young students even understand objective of the protest before or even after taking part in it. But captions of photographs in newspapers or electronic media run as ‘protesters take part in a procession….’.

But shall we criticise civil society groups or student bodies only for spoiling the careers of students? No, even the government does it. Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma has launched his pet project of planting agar and bamboo plants in the past few days. He may not be part of the decision, but in one such programme at Ranikor in South West Khasi Hills district, schools from three students took part. Even the teachers were asked to be part of the rally because the chief minister has come to the border town after a long time. There was no lesson for the students that day. The issue is not losing one day of study, but the practice. What relevance the sapling distribution programme holds for the students to justify one day of study especially when the chief minister used the platform to proclaim the ‘good performance’ of his government.

As such, everyone is using the students for pushing their own agenda. And, the victims are only government schools. The influential people would not touch the private schools because their own children study there! There should not be any more place for this hypocrisy.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on September 12, 2015)