Carrying out the Core Business of KET
By Graham Spearing
A trip to the far-east, particularly to Burma (Myanmar), is a pilgrimage for me. My father was captured during the first Arakan campaign, transferred to Rangoon Jail, where he died of starvation. His grave is in the smaller of two cemeteries in Rangoon (Yangon), which I visit every one to two years. Many of the group with whom I travel have similar reasons for going and also an interest in the history of the war in Burma.
The victory over the Japanese started with the battle for Kohima and a visit there has a similar feeling of pilgrimage for many who travel to this hill town and its war cemetery.
The weather was distressingly cold at night. It is said that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation. I confess to my failure and suffered as a result.
My visit had another purpose, which was to present scholarships to those students who had met the criteria for entry into the scholarship programme. The awards ceremony was a wonderful and joyous occasion. Many of the young people were dressed in traditional tribal costume, all were extremely well behaved and so quiet compared with what one might expect from a similar gathering in the UK. Over seventy scholarships were awarded and the task of presenting them was shared with Joan Potter, formally of trustee of KET. There were many photographs which will be forwarded to sponsors as appropriate.
Joan and I wrote a letter of encouragement to all the successful scholars and have asked that they in turn write to their sponsors. Communication across Nagaland is not rapid to say the least and there will be no sense of urgency about writing. They have arrived and should have been forwarded to the relative sponsors.
In addition to the school sponsorships, the KET are also able – again through legacy sponsorships – to offer a form of nurse training. However The Kohima Educational Society (the Nagaland arm of KET) did not appoint any Nurse Sponsorships this year.
I also visited a local hospital, which provides very basic nurse training, for girls from more remote villages. Some do not return but elect to stay in the larger towns where they will earn more money. Approximately 75-80% however do return and provide much needed help to the health of their villages.
What a lively place and how sad to see so many children in such a position. The ‘mother’ who cares for the children had been taken into hospital just before our arrival, and we learnt subsequently, that she had died. Her daughter continues to care for the children with help from the older girls. This is bound to disrupt their studies and more help will be required to maintain the present level of care. Very few of these children attain a sufficient level of education to be in a position to apply for a scholarship. We all took them to our hearts, leaving with a wish to do something to help, even if it was only a small donation each year to help to feed them. It would be good if somehow we could ensure that they obtain proper and adequate early education, to give them a fighting chance to apply for a scholarship.
The orphanage, as orphanages always do, opens one’s heart to the young children who seem to have least in society. Education for them is even more of a lottery. It is a long way from the schools and the teacher who attends them often does not arrive. To attain the necessary educational level for a scholarship is difficult, and those that do then have to walk for a couple of hours to reach school, and if they are late have to return. We are looking at ways of providing more help for them. When leaving to return to Dimapur, we passed one of the boys returning to the orphanage because he had been late for school. Due to the circumstances he had set off an hour later than usual allowing himself only one hour to cover the distance. We gave him a lift back.
The KET have supported Patricia, a teacher, to undertake an MA course with York University. This post graduate training will provide a much needed resource for the teachers of Nagaland and very much support the endeavours of KET and KES.
Much is needed and there is so much more to do. The fact that the veterans of the Kohima battle wish to endow a better future for the children and grandchildren of those who helped them in such difficult times, is so worthwhile and so worthy of everyone’s support.