On 3rd July 2019, an interactive session on Armed Forces as a career choice was held with a group of 40 NCC (National Cadet Corps) cadets of 9th standard studying in an International School in Mumbai.

The session was to educate them about the option of a career in Armed Forces, the ethos of this organization & so on. This also included a few glimpses through video clips, showing our Armed Forces. Some of the cadets sat through the session because they were told to, but majority of them seemed very enthusiastic to learn about our Armed Forces. Their questions and their involvement reflected their exuberance and interest. Although this is a very young age and their interests may change by the time they make their career choices, it still was heartening to see the pervading enthusiasm.

In an era of everyone aspiring to get 90% in their exams, vying to be Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, CAs, Bankers, Software Professionals, Teachers and so on, even a few willing to join the Armed Forces seemed like a big deal to me. Maybe it’s only me who thinks that there are very few interested in joining Armed Forces or maybe it truly is the case because we cannot deny the shortage of officers in our Armed forces.

A tinge of disappointment with regards to the knowledge of students

Despite the positive feeling of the session, I returned somewhat disappointed. The reason being that here was a batch of 40 NCC cadets and I presumed that these kids were being taught about discipline, adventure, unity, toughness and through all this a sense of patriotism was also being inculcated in them. Yet, just 1-2 of them were aware of the Kargil Conflict (I didn’t even want to check with them about the previous wars) and this is the year that marks 20 years of the Kargil conflict.

Some may argue that it has been a long time and these students weren’t even born then.

True, it’s been a long time for our freedom struggle too and many of us weren’t born then but we READ and LEARNT about it. So, wouldn’t it be important that our next generation learns about the various wars or at least about the most recent conflict too?

How do we expect the next generation to choose a career in Armed Forces when they have such limited knowledge of these things? Does the onus of choosing this career only lie on those who belong to the families of Armed Forces?

School students interacting with serving IAF officers
Young Students getting a first hand experience interacting with IAF Officers. Photo credits: IAF School, Hebbal

Some may argue that much has been written about them in the form of books related to the conflict, movies are being made and there are sessions held where personalities talk about the pros of having served in the Armed Forces. Sure but reading these books, watching such movies and participating in such sessions is optional. Only a select few may choose to do so.

On the other hand, if something is included in the curriculum of our students, the number of people to whom such information is passed will increase manifold. A movie like ‘Uri- The Surgical Strikes’ evoked a very good response and there was a sense of patriotism among the audience who viewed the movie. But 20 years on, I am unsure if a movie has been made on ‘The Shershah’ of Kargil, Capt Vikram Batra.

Again, maybe it’s just me, but then I often think! Why wait for Bollywood to take time out and make movies on these heroes? Why not give these fallen soldiers the respect they deserve? So many young men in their 20s who made their supreme sacrifice, who also had dreams to achieve, families to take care of and loved ones to return to. But yet, all that mattered to them was their Country first before everything else.

Also Read: Need Of The Hour – A Gutsy Defence Minister

National Cadet Corps – an extracurricular activity

The other thing that we learnt during the session was that NCC was not compulsory in schools and was considered as an ‘extracurricular activity’. It was an option to pursue and not a compulsory participation.

I again had a series of questions in mind; that should NCC not be made compulsory at least up to certain classes? Isn’t it the easiest way to instill, at least a part of the military values and discipline amongst our children? Couldn’t it also be a way of shaping up future officers and men of our Armed Forces?

I wonder what stops the government from making NCC mandatory or why the schools don’t insist on this? I am not a subject matter expert, but common sense tells me that a school would generally have the infrastructure to conduct NCC sessions. Manpower shortage could be an issue though. Or maybe as always it is a matter of priorities.

The shortage of officers in Armed Forces is, maybe not alarming enough or maybe there are initiatives in other forms that are being undertaken. Having said that shortage or no, other initiatives or no, forcing students to be a part of NCC will definitely instill certain discipline, ethics and values which may be missing now.

With NCC being an extracurricular activity and the focus of parents and children being on getting admission in the best college, the preference now is of heading to tuitions / extra classes after school rather than taking up NCC. However such may not be the case if NCC is made compulsory and graded, at least for a few classes.

A small glimmer of hope can be seen as Capt Amarinder Singh, The Chief Minister of Punjab has made an announcement that he has planned to start a pilot project where NCC will be made compulsory in all government schools and colleges for Std. 9th, 11th, 1st year and 2nd year students in 3 districts in his State. Hope this project achieves the desired results and other states follow suit too. Only time will tell if it happens or if this one too bites the dust.

Act and Not Wait

However, while the educators wait for policy changes with regards to curriculum and NCC, the least that they need to do on their own is mention a few lines in their daily common address for school students about one brave heart at least once a week.

I assume this wouldn’t involve any additional investment of any kind nor would the schools need to seek permissions for this. It is just a matter of intent.

By doing so, in one academic year, the students would have learned about at least 30 such inspirational men. Apparently, it might look too insignificant a number. But, as they say ‘Something is Better than Nothing”. Also, this may be enough to inspire a few from the next generation. After all, even one such person can be an inspiration that changes the life of someone. Isn’t that so?

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