14 Schools get CBSE affiliation in past 6 months

New Delhi, Dec 19 (Representative) A huge row has broken out over the CBSE affiliation of 14 schools in two hill districts of violence-hit Manipur. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on its SARAS 4.0 website shows 10 schools in Kangpokpi district, and four in Churachandpur districts have been newly affiliated with the board in the past six months. The affiliation will come into effect from April 1, 2024. The affiliation of one more school in Churachandpur district, 65 km from the state capital Imphal, has been extended during this period. SARAS is short for the CBSE’s ‘School Affiliation Re-Engineered Automation System’ that updates in real-time the affiliation status of over 28,900 schools across India. The controversy started when congratulatory messages surfaced on social media about the switch from the state board to CBSE, amid the tension between the valley-majority Meiteis, who want the affirmative action Scheduled Tribes (ST) category, and the hill-majority Kukis, who want a separate administration carved out from Manipur. The change of the education board from state to central in the two hill districts was seen as a soft attempt at formalising a new arrangement.The Manipur education department under its minister Th Basanta in a statement said the state government has not given any no-objection certificate (NOC) to schools for CBSE affiliation in the past six months. The CBSE’s bylaws make it a legal requirement for state board schools to get NOC from the state government before applying for central board affiliation. “… It is to clarify for general information that the state government has not issued any NOC for affiliation with CBSE to any of the educational institutions in Churachandpur and Kangpokpi districts since May 2023,” Manipur school education joint secretary Anjali Chongtham said in a statement.

Mr Basanta told reporters in Imphal that the last time the state government gave an NOC for CBSE affiliation was in May 2020. However, seven of the 10 heads of the newly affiliated schools who spoke to on phone from Kangpokpi district, 45 km from Imphal, said they got the NOC from the zonal education officer Lhingneikim Kipgen, who works under the education department. The other three school principals in Kangpokpi could not be reached. Calls to Ms Kipgen went unanswered. “The situation in Manipur after May 3 was such that functioning under the state board was becoming impossible. We have to go to Imphal for exam coordination and other state board work. How would that be possible?” the principal of a Kangpokpi school freshly affiliated with the CBSE told, requesting anonymity. Another school principal in Kangpokpi said they have followed due process in applying for NOC, and showed the letters they have written to the education department seeking NOC for education board switch. Though this principal could not show the education department’s response, he showed the NOC they have received from the zonal education officer. All the principals spoke to in Kangpokpi requested anonymity. In Churachandpur, none of the four newly affiliated schools that appear on the CBSE affiliation list had working phone numbers. One had only ‘0000’ as the contact number. Not having working phones and having inconsistent details such as the number of the principal turning out to be of a relative are violations of the CBSE’s bylaws for affiliation. Only the affiliation of Churachandpur’s Rayburn High School, which came under the CBSE in 2013, has been extended this year, while the rest four are all new entries in the CBSE list.Churachandpur zonal education officer (ZEO) Jangkhohao Haokip told on Monday that his predecessor who left in June this year handled the NOC matter.

“I took over in July, a month after the previous ZEO left,” Mr Haokip told on phone from Churachandpur. Young Learners’ School, for example, in its mandatory public disclosure for parents to verify about its affiliation status mentioned that it got the NOC on June 15 this year, which was before Mr Haokip took over. A copy of the letter by the then zonal education officer to the school said the education department had no objection to Young Learners’ School from applying for CBSE affiliation. People with direct knowledge of the matter in the education minister’s office told that they are not ruling out fraud and forgery since the state government has not given any NOC. They said they are talking to the zonal education officers and investigating the matter, which seems to indicate serious breakdown in key moving parts of the administration when battle lines have been clearly drawn on the basis of ethnicity and deep mistrust. “If the zonal education officers have issued NOCs without the knowledge of the education department, we will fix accountability. We came to know forms submitted to the CBSE have ‘Yes’ written on whether state government NOC has been taken. We will find everything soon,” a senior officer in the education department told, requesting anonymity. Email and calls to the CBSE chairperson Nidhi Chhibber on Monday were not answered.