— by Kyuchu Pfithu, Research Associate
The ASER 2017 ‘Beyond Basics’ survey was carried out in Kohima district – the capital of Nagaland, and also one of the most developed districts in the state. The village I got the opportunity to visit during the survey is situated at a distance of 24km from Kohima, and is also one of the remotest in the district.
I walked into the village quite early in the day hoping to be able to interact with some 14-18 year olds, and found most of the households to be deserted. I later learnt that it being harvest season, most of the youngsters were out in the fields helping out. Fortunately, I got to meet the church pastor, who spoke to me at length about the demography of the village and gave me some insight into the lives of the youth there.
The village has a total of 23 households, of which only 5 have youth in the age-group of 14-18 years – the relevant age-group for our survey this year, he told me. There is only one government primary school in the village, he added, because of which all of these youth stay in Kohima for their education. However, winter vacations were in full swing during my visit, so I would get the opportunity to meet and interact with some of them, as they were visiting their home town during this time.
I then ventured into the village by myself, checking off facilities on my survey booklet, and also listing the households with resident youth (14-18 year olds), hoping to engage in conversation with some of them personally.
14-year-old Belebetou Pielie*, in his traditional Naga school bag, was the first youth I encountered. Although he was slightly reluctant to speak to me initially, he gradually opened up, and led me to his house to continue our conversation. He is currently enrolled in Std 5, he told me, and has two siblings – an older brother and a younger sister.
He said he would like to continue his education till Std 12, after which he wishes to join the army. When I asked him if he knows how to prepare himself for joining the armed forces, he smiled and replied that he will join the army recruitment rally which happens at Kohima local ground.
I asked whether any family members or relatives are currently serving in the Army who might have motivated him to have taken this decision, to which he said that it is entirely his own ambition.
In Kohima, he lives in a rented house with his older brother. When he’s not studying for school, he does chores around the house, goes grocery shopping, and loves playing football in his spare time.
Roukuosetou* is a 15-year-old boy studying in Std 9 in a private school at Kohima. He is the eldest in the family, and has a younger brother and sister. He too had just arrived to his hometown for his winter vacations.
When asked till what grade he would like to continue studying, he said that he will complete his graduation, after which he aspires to join the police forces. I then asked him how he plans on preparing for this, he replied saying that he has one cousin who is currently serving in Nagaland police, and hopes that he will give him the required guidance. In the meantime, he knows he has to work hard and stay fit, he told me.
He didn’t seem to be aware of any exams or recruitment rallies which he would have to clear to be able to join the Police force, and seemed entirely dependant on his cousin to guide him. “What if you are posted anywhere far away from your village, away from your family, would you go?” I asked him. He responded saying that his parents are aware of his ambition, and he would not mind staying away from home if his aspiration was to come to fruition.
During his winter vacations, he lends a helping hand to his parents on the field while harvesting, does household chores and plays football during his spare time.
*Names have been changed