Where are all the Children?

By Chingshang Yambem

One of the main strengths of ASER has been its recheck process, which earns appreciation even from its critics. Our Rechecking process doesn’t mean that we are not trusting our volunteers or Master Trainers or district partners, who are directly involved with the survey, but to get the scientifically credible data from the field. Rechecking is yet another very crucial component of the study, where we randomly select a few villages after completion of the survey to see if all the process of the survey has been properly followed or not.

The first part of this process is to randomly call up a few households from each village and confirm if the information collected is correct. In most cases, the respondent cooperates very well when they are explained about the call properly. Some even appreciated us for our process and told us that it is very unusual for a survey to have such checks and balances. Once this is done, we identify which villages have to be visited for a further recheck process, where we randomly visit some of the surveyed households and interact with the members of those households.

In one of such recheck, we visited a village in Chandel district of Manipur, and we found some interesting situation. Here is a village which has 102 households and 523 people (according to the 2001 Census), but in reality they have only 40 plus houses and lesser number of population. According to the survey information submitted, there were only two children, out of which one has dropped out from school and the other one goes to a pre-school. And this was the main reason for selecting this village for recheck.

I had to ask, where have all the children of this village gone?

We reached the village and went directly to the village chief and put forward our concern. We found out that the village school has remained closed for the last many months, reason best known only to the concerned authorities. But the irony here was that the number of teaching & non-teaching staff of the school was 13. No children were enrolled. As a result all the children went to the nearby boarding school and some live with their relatives to continue their studies. We went to the school and found the school locked and it seems that it hasn’t been opened for a very long time.
This is just one village, there are many such villages in our state which needs a lot of attention, not only from the government but also from the community and civil society like ours!