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Nagas and Education
By: Dr. Tuisem A. Shishak

Naga Education

"...Education must encompass both the tested wisdom of mankind and training for life in a particular community and culture." "A good educational syetem may be the flower of economic development; it is also the seed." "Education is the key that unlocks the door to modernization."

No human society exists and grows without education of some kind. Nagas were no different. Since there was no tribal or inter-tribal organization to deal with the needs of the tribes as a whole, each village became solely responsible for its own economic social, spiritual, and political needs. Such needs required that the young be taught and trained within the village community. One such training center in Naga society was the morung (bachelors dormitory), which is found in many parts of the world. The morungs was located at the village entrance or on a spot from where the village could be guarded most effectively. Among the Aos and Konyaks, boys' morungs are separate buildings, whereas among the Tangkhuls and Angamis they are housed in buildings built and occupied by families. Upon reaching the age of puberty, boys and girls are admitted to their respective dormitories. Members have to take part in many morung activities; if the morung is housed in someone's building, members would help the owners in collecting firewood, drawing water, etc.

The morung was an important educational institution for the boys. There were regular ranks through which boys passed until they attained adulthood and were admitted to full membership. Each order had to perform some distinctive form of service for the men who belonged in the morung. Normal activities at the morung were never organised; they were spontaneous and members responded naturally. Much of the Naga culture, its customs and traditions has been transmitted from generation to generation through the media of folk music and dance, folk tales and oral historical traditions, carvings of figures on stone and wood, and designs on clothes. Much of this teaching-learning process took place at the men's and women's dormitories. As the boys sat around the hearth inside the morung they often found themselves singing, if they did not happen to be discussing or gossiping. However, senior members often spent the evenings at the girls dormitory, leaving the freshmen and other juniors at the morung to keep, as it were, the home fires burning. Thus often folk songs were learned and sung at the girls' dormitory, where the boys came to count.

Many Naga folk songs tend to be romantic in their content as their composition was often inspired or motivated by the boy-girl relationship at the girls' dormitory and at work in the fields. However, there are many folk songs which contain historical background of the tribe, the community, the village, the clan, and certain well-known individuals and communities; they also speak of evil deeds committed by some individuals and communities. Seasonal songs are sung only in that particular season for which they were composed. For instance, spring songs tell you what the spring season is and what one should be doing during that season. Thus there is at least one folk song for each period of the agricultural years. It is instructive, and one is tempted to call it a course in Naga agriculture.

Hardly and Naga dance is performed without the accompaniment of music or shouts of some kind. A variety of dances is performed by the Nagas each year, and dances used to be performed during social festivals and religious ceremonies.

Folk tales and oral historical traditions have been the best and most effective means of transmitting events of the past to the present. Often one finds by the fireside at home an elder telling folk stories to a group of children. It appears that in the early days, story telling at the boys' morung was more organized; the elder or the priest would come prepared; more involved stories of the past were recited. Folk tales and oral historical traditions are more inclusive than folk music in their content, and thus cover more extensive areas than the latter. Folk stories contain less romantic episodes; they tell more about customs and traditions of the past; they also tell about animism (nature or spirit worship), the only religion of the Nagas prior to their contact with Western missionaries. In the absence of any written document, folk tales and oral historical traditions remain the sole links between the past and the present. One acquired the skills of learning folk tales by the most assiduous cultivation of the memory.

For their physical fitness program, the Naga did not need any organized sports and games. The topography of their land is such that daily going down to the farm in morning and coming back up to the village in the evening was sufficient to keep them in good shape physically. They did, however, have some very popular sports and games such as wrestling, javelin throw, shot put, tug war, etc., which were performed daily informally, and competitively during village festivals.

It would be na´ve to believe that Nagas received no education prior to their contact with the westerns. "Education is itself part of the social organization of any society, whether or not that society has anything which might be recognized as a school." Naga societies, though without the formal schooling of the West, regarded education as operative at all stages of human life and very much in the interest of the cohesion of village communities.

Examples of indigenous education are basically examples of learning about the environment in its economic potential and the learning of the skills required or exploiting the environment. As the family in Naga society has always been the prime economic unit, trades of economic value were first learned at home and on the family farm. For example, cloth marking, basket and mat weaving, etc. were taught at home; cultivation was always learned on the farm. Parents themselves, or uncles and aunts, or even grandparents, taught the young boys the arts of agriculture and the young girls how to fetch water and firewood and the domestic arts.

Parents were primarily responsible in teaching social ethics and behaviour to their children, such teaching occurred informally as the children sat around the kitchen fire eating or relaxing, as well as at work on their farm. Children were always taught to respect and honour their parents and elders. Role playing and dramatization were used to teach the young the kind of conduct, ceremony, and discharge of responsibility expected of them. parents always looked forward to the day when thy would retire from active farming due to age to baby sit their grandchildren. Aged Naga parents always lived with one of their children and were looked after by them.

Uncles, aunts, and grandparents were primarily responsible for sex education in the family; grandfathers and uncles dealt with the boys, and grandmothers and aunts with the girls. Instructions on sex were quite informal and were conducted in semi-secrecy.

Colonial education
Formal education called schooling was  first introduced into the Naga Hills by the missionaries in the 1880s, followed by the British. The primary purpose of mission schools was to teach Nagas reading and writing so that they could read the Bible and the hymnal. Of course, the whole Western colonial education was purely literary, providing the three R's: reading, writings and arithmetic. This was a 180-degree turn from traditional Naga education, which was informal, practical, and vocational. It has been proved a thousand times that colonial education was one-sided, being purely theoretical, leaving aside the practical aspects of education which the Nagas had been used to since time immemorial. British colonial education was purposely designed to produce clerks and civil servants, and in this they succeeded. But such a system of education cannot bring about economic development in any country, let alone the tribal heartlands where most of the people are still living at subsistence level. The education system in India has remained basically the same since her independence from Great Britain in 1947. Only in 1986 did New Delhi begin to take some drastic action to overhaul the nation's education system with a great deal of emphasis on the vocational (bread and butter) aspect of education. But the New Education Policy has not really begun to be inplemented with any success, partly because it remains a national goal without regional emphasis. As someone has said, "Think globally but act locally", each region must develop the kind of education that would meet the needs of that region. This means the Nagas must develop their own education system to meet their peculiar needs.

Articles and contributions made by others does not reflect the stand of the Developers and the Designers.
Developed By Mr. B Koheni Moses.