Rise of digital learning amid COVID-19 pandemic in Nagaland

Vishü Rita Krocha 
Kohima | July 23

 The COVID-19 lockdown may have paralyzed ‘normal life’ in the last couple of months, but for 29 rural youths spread across different districts of Nagaland, this period is proving to be an exciting beginning of finding new paths for their careers and gaining meaningful employment amid the crisis.

The youths, 90% of whom are from the poor and marginalized section are school dropouts with little or no access to digital learning prior to the pandemic. They are currently being trained under Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY), a sponsored programme under The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) as a part of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and executed by YouthNet.

“The ultimate goal of the programme is to create employment for the rural youth,” James Kithan, Skill Development Manager, YouthNet told The Morung Express. Through coordination with the village chairmen and village youth, he said, the enrolled candidates come together to the community hall in their respective villages for their online sessions from Monday through Friday.

Impressing upon that although the COVID-19 has driven them to conduct online classes under the program, he however also observed that there is a lot of interaction amongst them. “It’s quite interesting to see how they open up during the sessions,” he expressed. Aged between 18 to 35, the rural youths are enrolled for a 6-month diploma after which they will undergo a one month on job training, followed by placement.

As an organisation, Founder of YouthNet, Hekani Jakhalu Kense strongly believes that “there is never a better time than this for organisations, practitioners, people in position and the government to take advantage of the situation because it’s really like starting from a clean slate.”

The most important thing, she asserted in this regard is ‘convergence’ while pointing out that there is no proper data wherein even allied departments show different data for a particular project. Impressing upon that unless you converge what you are doing, there will be no impact of any work being carried out in the state, she also indicated that lockdown is a given opportunity to revive Nagaland.

“When people are suffering, it is time for us to step up and help,” she affirmed while pointing to the trainings and experiences YouthNet has gained over the last 14 years. The team has extensively travelled to all parts of Nagaland during which, Kense also observed that somehow, people in places like Kohima and Dimapur are connected to so many things whereas other districts are so disconnected and have no idea what entrepreneurship is, or how to do marketing. In that sense, “even the most basic things we shared with them is helpful”, she pointed out.

Reiterating that “for us, we are taking advantage of not only us surviving but how we are going to use our resources and our strength to help others,” she stated that “we are very excited.” While lockdown may have kept people from travelling for work among other things, she however emphasized that, “this has given us opportunity to really explore technology and different innovative ideas which we would never have explored otherwise.”

‘Technology, no longer a choice but a necessity’
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a whole new digital era with everything else from school classes to office meetings, trainings, seminars and virtual shows take place over the internet. ‘Skills to Succeed’, a corporate citizenship initiative of Accenture, which is being run by YouthNet in partnership with Quest Alliance since 2016 has also gone online with virtual sessions being held twice a week.

“Technology is one thing we have to accept now. It is no longer a choice but a necessity,” Tsepila Zhimomi, one of the trainers remarked. Stating that ‘Skills to Succeed’ is also a job placement program, she said the online sessions are being conducted via Google Meet.

Those registered under this program (which is free), she also highlighted are being taught about Retail Customer Interaction, Life Skills, Digital Literacy, etc. Students, who need it, are further being assisted in data recharge. “We are also willing to give smart phones to anyone who registers under this program and may be in need of it,” she added.

Nuneseno Chase, Director- Programs, YouthNet noted that they have been getting more registrations than they have had walk-ins before the lockdown. She also revealed that the program has impacted more than 20,000 students, and has trained and provided employment opportunities to about 1500 jobseekers till date. Along with Tsepila Zhimomi, Pursungit and Neidivi Angami are the trainers under this program.

YouthNet Women Entrepreneurship Fellowship: With COVID-19, realising more than ever the need to explore every opportunity to strengthen our business and economy YouthNet has also selected 20 women from the ‘Made In Nagaland’ including few others from outside the Centre for YouthNet Women Entrepreneurship Fellowship. 

This is a one-year program which will focus on individual hand holding of the business by professionals trained by Godrej. At the end of the fellowship, YouthNet will help in facilitating access to finances and more mentorship from experts if required. In line with this, Made in Nagaland had also launched its ecommerce site earlier and has exceptionally seen the growth of ecommerce during this period. It further helped a farmer from Kiphire by selling 3000 kgs of Kholar during the lockdown besides fish from Doyang.

 In the process, it has been able to help not only the farmers and the fishermen but also drivers, delivery guys and others involved in the process. Further in partnering with Asian Paints, it has trained 60 painters out of whom, 6 painters are currently engaged with Dieze Keyho as the team leader. This is partly filling the huge void created by the migrant workers in the construction sector.

LaunchPad: As the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing global experimentation with remote working and learning due to restrictions on several activities and imposed lockdown, YouthNet will be launching LaunchPad through a digital platform since the initial plan of implementing it in a classroom setting is not feasible. 

Nuneseno Chase, Director- Programs, YouthNet informed that LaunchPad is a career guidance and employability skills development program for students pursuing their 12th standard in all Government Higher Secondary Schools across Nagaland and an initiative of YouthNet in partnership with the Department of Youth Resources and Sports and supported by the Department of School Education, Government of Nagaland.

InnoveX-entrepreneurship competition: Further emphasizing on the importance of teaching entrepreneurial skills and acquiring these skills at a young age, Nuneseno Chase said, in partnership with SAMAGRA Shiksha programme under School Education, YouthNet will launch InnoveX-entrepreneurship competition for vocational schools. 

With the main objective of instilling the concept of innovation and creativity, and entrepreneurial mindsets in students, she said the core idea and objective of the competition is to provide students a hands-on experience of doing business, to explore and learn the opportunities of doing business. Participants will take an online class on basic skills of entrepreneurship and business management skills and further they will formulate business ideas of their own and implement their ideas using the seed money given to each team.