This was my first time attending the scholarship ceremony in Kohima and I was delighted to be accompanied there by our KES Chairman, Dr Phyobemo Ngully. We were both excited about this special day and I was full of anticipation as we weaved our way through the busy Kohima streets.
I had seen the images from previous scholarship events in the KET Newsletter but on entering the hall, I was surprised by the vast number of people there (300 or so I estimate) other than the scholars, which included parents, teachers and guardians – perhaps even some veterans. Many of those attending wore elements of their tribal dress, so my first impression was of colour and excited youthful faces as they looked round inquisitively to see who had arrived.
Headmaster and member of KES, Pfelie Kesiezie, had the audience in rapt attention as he outlined the procedures of the day and purpose of the scholarship. Many of the people in the audience had travelled arduous routes for a couple of days to get to Kohima and I was delighted to learn that the scholars come from ten of the eleven administrative areas in Nagaland. The members of the Kohima Educational Society (KES) have striven to cover the whole of Nagaland.
Senior members of the KES sat in chairs on the stage – Charles Chasie (President), Dr Phyobemo Ngully (Chairman) and Tali Temjen. They play a critical role in selecting which of the young people were to be granted scholarships. The administrative burden of arranging the scholarships is borne by Mhasisalie Solo (Salie) and the ceremony that day wouldn’t have happened without the generous help of his wife and friends who, among other things, arranged the award documents and lunch.
Salie, an employee of KES, does most of the hard work to advertise the scholarships, to process applications, to issue administrative instructions to make the whole process work, as well as arranging the allocation of money or cheques to the individual scholars. KET is very grateful for all the efforts of the KES and its loyal supporters.
After a few speeches each of the scholars was invited onto the stage and I had the great privilege of handing out the scholarship documents and cheques to these young people. Some were confident, some appeared nervous but they all looked magnificent in their colourful attire. At that stage, fresh off the stage and clutching their scholarship documents, few of them probably realised the full impact that these scholarships might have on them: they would be changing schools and they would be undertaking a different level of education, much better resourced, which would enable them to achieve more in their lives.
Following the award of the 188 scholarships, which proceeded flawlessly and surprisingly quickly, we all posed in various groups for a variety of home-grown and professional photographers, some of the fruits of which you can see with this article. Among the different groups, was one very special group – the descendants of Naga veterans who had helped the British at the Battle of Kohima itself – they reminded us of the purpose of the KET – to thank the Naga people for their support in WW2 through educational projects in Nagaland.
Most donors of scholarships are sent a photograph of the young person receiving their named scholarship and at least one letter from them too. I saw many of them writing those letters, in their first language, English, after the ceremony and an example of one is shown among the photographs. There is no doubt they are very grateful for the scholarships.
I cannot stress strongly enough how wonderful I think this scholarship programme is; we tend to call it our ‘flagship project’ and I think it is exactly that. I suppose the best illustration of the good that these scholarships bring, was hearing from KES members about two scholars that had been members of the local Kohima orphanage. One of the scholars is now thrilled to be a teacher, in fact THE teacher at the orphanage and the other has a job in a local call centre. Neither of these young people would have achieved these jobs without the scholarships.
Finally, I am delighted to say that the KET and KES are currently looking at ways we can extend this programme into further education.
Report from David Shaw