Young Lives considers children as active participants in our research. Here we share some of the children’s own perspectives on the world and their reflections and responses to our research – in their own words. This is an essential part of the Young Lives approach – to ensure children’s voices are heard and their participation is a core value of the study.
These testimonies come from our publication Towards a Better Future? Hopes and Fears from Young Lives based on a selction of our qualitative longitudinal research.This is the third book following the same 24 children and young people from our four study countries. When the study began, the children in the 'Older Cohort' were eight and those in the 'Younger Cohort' were infants. By the time of the interviews for this publication, the youngest children were 13 and the oldest were 20.
Deepak belongs to one of India’s indigenous groups, known as adivasi or Scheduled Tribes. He lives in a remote rural area with his father, stepmother and three siblings. His mother died in childbirth. The family are poor and life is not easy for them. Deepak is now boarding in a hostel so that he can go to school in another village, but he is struggling.
Harika has an older and a younger brother. Her older brother has been informally adopted by an aunt who has no children, so she has effectively been the oldest child in the family for many years. She is a clever girl, and when she was 13 was selected for a national scholarship. But she also missed school a lot because she was needed to help her family in the cotton fields. She was educated up to Grade 12 in a government college, where she and a friend stayed in a hostel because there was no senior secondary school in the village. But now she is married and pregnant with her first child.
Ravi comes from a lower-caste family and has had to leave school and work from a young age as a bonded labourer. His life has been a constant struggle to eat, to live and to clear the family debts. It has also been marred by violence. But now Ravi, too, is married and it seems the pattern of violence is continuing.
Salman is a young man from a Muslim family who live in an urban area. He has two sisters and three brothers. His father died of a heart attack when he was 6. His mother used to be a domestic worker but is now unwell, and they have been forced to move six times in the last four years, the last time only a month ago. Salman left school in Grade 1. At the moment he is unable to find work, which is creating stress for him and his family. But he has four uncles who all work abroad and now he has a new plan...
Sarada lives in a village with her mother, sister and stepbrother. Her father lives in Mumbai with his second wife. Sarada belongs to a low-caste community. When she was in her early teens, the family fell into debt and the children had to leave school to work in the cotton fields. Sarada has been disabled since birth, which makes it hard for her to walk more than short distances. She used to say that she wanted to be a lawyer or a judge when she grew up, but is now happy studying and teaching in the local school.
Shanmuka Priya lives in a village with her parents and her little brother, Prashant. She is 13 and in Grade 8. Her family has moved to a new house and she has recently started at high school, which she much prefers to her previous school. Her mother cannot read or write and her father left school when he was 10. Shanmuka Priya says she wants to become a teacher.