10 Questions with An Education Leader
A conversation with Dr. Bijano Murry, Joint Mission Director, Samagra Shiksha
Department of School Education, Govt. of Nagaland
When and how did your journey in the education ecosystem start? How did you come to be the Joint Mission Director?
My journey started in 2002 and it was rather by chance. I completed my education (a masters in literature), got married and settled in a small town in Nagaland. Back then, there were very few employment opportunities. But I was eager to become financially stable. The education space had opportunities. I applied for a teacher’s role in a post-secondary government school. I was selected and taught Grades 11 and 12. Since then, there has been no looking back. I was promoted to Vice Principal within two years and eventually became the Principal in a higher secondary school in Kohima. I wanted to explore new avenues in education and for the past three years, I have been with Samagra Shiksha, while also leading the school.
How have you seen the education system in the state evolve?
When I initially joined the education space, it was rather monotonous. Go to school, teach what you have to, ensure student performance – that’s about it. There was not much support back then from the department to enhance our skills or introduce some interventions for students. Over the years, the focus on education has increased. Infrastructure has improved, Today, there are many significant positive interventions to support the system. Programs like Samagra Shiksha, SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan), RMSA (Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan) have led to improvements in the quality of education for students. The World Bank funded NECTAR project has been a very big help to all the schools. The Ministry of Education, the enhanced state policies, dedicated education officials and the National Education Policy 2020 have been instrumental in bringing these changes. I also see dynamic school leaders who are giving so much [commitment and passion] to work and transforming schools in their own ways. Recently, two of our school leaders were invited by NIEPA [National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration] to showcase their journey.
One of the school visits
What are your roles and responsibilities as the Joint Mission Director?
There are in total three Joint SPDs and we have our individual components to take care of. I am responsible for the design, roll out, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, within the specified timelines, for learning enhancement programs, NIPUN Bharat, Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), support to BRCs and NEP. This involves identifying the needs, and providing support to block support centres, training of School Management Committees, community mobilisation. There are multiple trainings frequently under various education programs. I travel to districts often to be close to the ground, interact with the stakeholders, understand their needs and design interventions accordingly. Along with the SCERT and the Directorate of School Education I am also responsible for the interventions required for ECCE.
Community and Schools Outreach for Samagra Shiksha initiatives
What are the challenges in your role? How do you overcome them?
Most of the programs and academic responsibilities are time-bound activities. Finishing them within the timelines is a challenge sometimes. Along with this, the monitoring mechanism of the education system in the state also needs strengthening. We want to know how our interventions are faring.
At a personal level, it is difficult especially for a woman to juggle work. The working hours are hectic and erratic, and there is a feeling of inadequacy and guilt [of not giving enough time to family]. At home, my spouse is supportive. I have peers who have become friends. I draw inspiration and motivation from them which helps me forget these challenges. For more than 20 years, my students have been my key driving force. Their zeal for learning, their trust in our guidance, building a life for themselves – has motivated me to continue my journey. There have been times when I wanted to quit, but the ability/power to make a difference made me stay.
Why do you think education leadership is important? What role do education leaders play in the ecosystem?
A school or education leader is someone who is committed and passionate to drive change in education and operates with an unwavering dedication to serve the students. They operate with the understanding of context [of classroom/ school/ community], they contextualise [and customise] policies [and processes], make positive changes in their schools, without waiting for anyone or any department to do that. They focus on what can they do to move things –
Nagaland is not bereft of such leaders who can bring change. There are so many school heads who are working tirelessly to bring about positive transformation in their schools. They are really focussed on school development. They have leveraged a lot of community support in the form of contribution of learning materials, even financial support and construction of basic facilities in the school.
The interaction now moves from in-depth responses and insights to quick snapshots.
What is your vision for the children of Nagaland?
My vision for them is that they fulfil their dreams, that they are prepared holistically to step into the world and that they possess the skills for employment. I wish for them to be confident and take on all the challenges.
What are some tips that you would like to share with your school leaders?
Be thoroughly involved in the system, without being involved, one will not know and understand the areas of improvement. Operate with a vision, you cannot lead a school to success without that. Without a vision, teachers and students will be left aimless too. And that they must strengthen community ties – community involvement is another important factor for school success.
What is the most gratifying achievement from the 20+ years of your journey?
When I come across my former students and teachers, they recall the time we have spent together and we share a good time. And I am also happy working with the team at Samagra Shiksha.
Bumping into her former students who are now teachers themselves
Do you get an opportunity to step away from work and how do you unwind?
The holidays are the days to unwind with family. And I also spend time with my friends whenever possible, to travel together, meet up and unwind.
With other school leaders turned friends and a source of motivation to each other
Among the three roles – teacher, school principal and joint mission director, if given a choice?
A teacher, without any doubt.