The American theologian Dr John B Cobb, sharing his point of view on ‘Religion and Education’ for the Sinclair Thompson Lectures, Chiangmai, Thailand in 2002, made a statement that ‘No society can ever have survived without the education of its young. They must learn the ways of the society and how to function within it.’ His observations have plain resemblance of the way, the Naga society construe and claim its understanding of passing on traditional and cultural values to the younger generations. He also says, ‘Culture cannot be separated from a pattern of values and a way of life,’ echoing the core idea many Naga communities uphold even today.
In the recent years, there are noticeable ventures to assemble culture, education and religion by ways of introducing curriculum in the formal education set up, churches organising workshops on teaching life-skills, organisations creatively imparting knowledge and custom unique to their own way of life. The need to incorporate traditional practices as a way of preserving the Naga identity and heritage has also resulted in most of the schools, especially government run schools, introducing a day dedicated towards cultural promotion. For instance, with an aim to instill cultural awareness and appreciation among the students, GMS Sungkomen under Mokokchung District came up with Teaching Learning Material (TLM) based on the traditional attire of Ao men and women; GMS NAP Sector, Shamator District organised a hands-on training on traditional weaving for the girl students; as part of the ancestral knowledge sharing session girl students of GMS New Risethsi in Kiphire District were taught loin loom weaving, while the boys were taught basket making; Students at GMS Humtso in Wokha District learning folk song during the Cultural Day.
Similarly, there are several organisations working towards the same goal. Tucked away in a quiet locality of Nagaland Capital (Kohima), Lidi Kro-u Society, a group of likeminded women from different khels (sectors) of Kohima village have been endeavouring to teach the young generation about the ancestral ways of life even while observing that our rich traditions are fast fading in the present context. Established in 2012, Lidi Kro-u Society aims to pass on the rich traditional knowledge through different activities including storytelling, bamboo crafts, weaving, rice pounding, folk songs and dance. Some churches also initiate programmes targeting the Sunday school students where the elders teach them life-skills such as using the dao, the process of cleaning and preparing meat, gardening, making traditional jewellery and other such activities.
Ours is a society deeply rooted in the cultural spectrum. Our individuality is in the rich tradition that we have inherited and of which we are the custodians. To survive and thrive in a condition where lost of culture and identity is considered as a threat, it is not less than a choice for any society to support the education of its young and to assume the responsibility of passing to the next generation the cultural substance and language, as well as the moral and ethical impressions, that set us individually to be the people we can be.
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