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On Teachers' Day

"Whenever I encounter the word 'Oxymoron', I remember my beloved teacher, the late educationist Ningombam Ibobi Singh who was teaching political science during my college days in D.M College nearly two decades back. He introduced to me the term 'Oxymoron', which refers to a compound word formed by two opposite words such as 'carefully-careless'. With the coming of Teachers' day, I recall this great personality who once said "If the past and the present are in agreement, future will be bright and if the past is contradictory to the present, future will be dim". Really speaking, if the present generation neglects and disobeys the elders, we can hardly produce good citizens in future, meaning our children won't pay heed to our words. As long as we respect our elders, our children will obey us and their future will be bright. Oja Ibobi is not in our midst now, but his teachings are increasingly becoming relevant day by day. This article is my homage to the late teacher on teachers' day.

Options available in Manipur, at present, is either to become a government school teacher or to become a rifleman in home department. A few better-off students opt to serve as private school teachers when they can't buy positions in the government sector. Many other remain working in private banks as collectors or otherwise. Young graduates' quest to become teachers or serve in security forces is due to dearth of other employment avenues for the thousands of degree-holder youths and lack of education quality in the state. Earlier, most of the average graduates had yearned to become a clerk in government departments, but nowadays such positions are scarcely vacant. Most educated graduates even sold out their assets only to buy positions as teacher or policeman. If average people come to teaching profession for earning their livelihood, quality of knowledge imparted to students is sure to be compromised. Teaching profession should be made a different one, if we desire to mould a bright future generation.

India celebrates Teachers' Day on 5th September every year, coinciding with the birthday of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan since 1962. A philosopher and a teacher par excellence, his unique contributions towards Indian education system have been remembered for all times. He believed "teachers should be the best minds in he most probable government job for an average unemployed graduate in the country". One day, some of his students and friends requested Dr. Radhakrishnan to allow them to celebrate his birthday. He replied "instead of celebrating my birthday separately, it would be my proud privilege if 5th September is observed as Teachers' day". From then onwards, Dr. Radhakrishnan's birthday is observed as Teacher's Day all across India.

Born on 5th September, 1888 at Tirutani, Madras in a poor Brahmin family, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan rose to the positions of the first Vice President and the second President of independent India. As his family was poor, Radhakrishnan supported most of his education through scholarships. He had his early education at Gowdie School, Tiruvallur and then went to the Lutheran Mission School in Tirupati for his high school. He joined the Voorhee's College in Vellore and later switched to the Madras Christian College. He did his B.A. and M.A. in Philosophy.

After completing his M.A., Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan accepted an Assistant Lectureship at the Madras Presidency College in 1909. In college, he mastered the classics of Hindu philosophy, namely the Upanishads, Bhagvad Gita, Brahmasutra, and commentaries of Sankara, Ramunuja and Madhava. He also acquainted himself with Buddhist and Jain philosophies and philosophies of Western thinkers such as Plato, Plotinus, Kant, Bradley and Bergson. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was selected as Professors of Philosophy at Mysore University in 1918 and at Calcutta University in 1921. In 1923, he published "Indian Philosophy", which is hailed as a philosophical classic and a literary masterpiece. When Oxford University invited Radhakrishnan to deliver lectures on Hindu philosophy, he used his lectures as a platform to further India's cause of freedom. He also argued that Western philosophers, despite all claims to objectivity, were biased by theological influences from their wider culture. He showed that Indian philosophy, once translated into standard academic jargon, is worthy of being called philosophy by Western standards. He thus placed Indian Philosophy on the world map.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was elected Vice Chancellor of the Andhra University in 1931 and he became the Vice Chancellor of the Banaras Hindu University in 1939. In 1946, he was appointed as Ambassador to UNESCO. In 1948, Dr. Radhakrishnan chaired the University Education Commission, the suggestions of which helped mould the education system for independent India's needs.

In 1949, he was sent as an ambassador to Soviet Union where he helped lay the foundation for a strong relationship between India and Soviet Union. Radhakrishnan was elected first Vice-President of India in 1952. He was honored with the Bharat Ratna in 1954. After serving two terms as Vice-President, he became the second President of India in 1962. During his tenure as President, India fought wars with China and Pakistan. He retired as President in 1967 and died on April 17, 1975.

The importance of Teachers' Day celebration may simply be assessed from the view that teachers act as foundation for creating responsible citizens of a state and good human beings in the society. Life without teachers is unimaginable. Words fail to appreciate teachers enough for their immense contribution to lives of many. Teachers' Day is celebrated to show our acknowledgement and recognition of the hard work put in by them towards development of mankind. Schools all over India celebrate the Day with students presenting gifts to their most admired teachers. It is an equally special day for teachers, as they get to know how much they are liked and appreciated by their pupils. Teachers are more than just an employee; they are the beacons of light for the next generation. Apart from knowledge, teaching profession requires a lot of hard work, dedication, sincerity and a guiding attitude, without which a teacher is not a teacher at all.

(This article by Seram Neken was originally published on 5th September 2010 in The Imphal Free Press)

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