Adolescence, the transitional period between youth and maturity, can be a thrilling time for girls and boys. It is a time of physical and mental growth when the young learn, create, and dream about creating a better world. All around the world we find vibrant youth, brimming with energy as learn the skills that will equip them for adulthood.
In the north east India, some children experience the joys of adolescence while others grow up with conflict and armed struggle. More often than not, we find young adolescents exploding in the streets, energized by drugs, alcohol, and scented tobacco. For these children, joy has been replaced with fear, and dreams with trauma. In this environment, there is little time for education, and even less time for sports, the arts, and friendly debates. These young people have few opportunities to read, think, imagine, and create.
North East Network [NEN], a women’s organization, has been working to create opportunities for youth to experience, imagine, and dream in few villages of Nagaland since 1998. The objective is to stimulate positive thinking among the youth, and to that end, NEN had introduced short courses and experiences in drawing, wild life conservation, photography, and the performing arts. NEN has also tried to promote football. Partnering with Mr. Kolo Mero of Live Sports, NEN initiated a coaching programme in village Chizami in January this year. Organized for the winter break, this programme attracted 148 applicants from whom 50 were selected. During the 2 weeks, 20 girls and 30 boys were coached as if they were professionals. With dynamic and energetic coaches, we watched young people learn new skills that they might, one day, pass on to children in their localities.
The training ended on February 5th and was followed by exhibition matches in the presence of a large crowd of spectators. Four of the girls have been selected for r more training in the IGS Football Academy at Kohima. Chizami village is thrilled that 50 of their young people getting have received this training. The youngsters now have dreams. Although some will undoubtedly stop playing, others can dream of new futures. Some will become athletes, while others may teach athletics, work in sports shops, or become coaches, or sports critics and announcers.
We are filled with fresh hope for the future. At a recent workshop, the newly appointed Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, Ajay Maken, said his Ministry is committed to promoting sports – as a source of employment and to further cultural practice and prestige — in the NE States. This Workshop, on “Youth and Sports development in the North Eastern Region,” was attended by Ministers of Youth affairs and MPs from all the States of the region. We anticipate their support for future sports programmes .
But if this is to be successful, the Center needs to be cognizant of three issues to plan initiatives. First, it will be important to analyze the situation of young people especially their involvement with sports and games and their intellectual training. While it is clear there is a crying need to do something, this analysis is a critical first step in planning. Second, it is important to identify both traditional and modern games that are popular in the states. This is an essential step to engage a sizeable number of youth. Third, while the State runs youth programmes, sports and games will have to be locally managed, which means programmes must enlist those with the capacity and will to sustain these activities. The State Minister mentioned that there are 10475 active Youth Clubs in the region but it is worth revisiting them to measure the degree of commitment and openness to new ideas. Reportedly there are thousands of youth volunteers such as the 59 District Youth Coordinators (DYC) and National Youth Corps Volunteers (NYC) within the region. These volunteers need to be involved and taught new skills through a carefully developed curricula designed with care and sensitivity to different sports in the region. Notwithstanding the gaps or slips that might occur in the process, we feel strongly that local initiatives will engage youth and open for them a road to fun and eventual employment. Although the introduction of sports and games cannot solve all problems, they can return to youth some of the joy, fun, and dreams of adolescence.
Original Story: The Morung Express
(Dr. Monisha Behal is the Chairperson of Guwahati based North East Network. Website:www.northeastnetwork.org)
North East Network