The 42nd AJI Frontier Seminar on "Aspirations and Urban Life among Poor Youth in Contemporary India: Focusing on Going Out Experiences of Teenage Girls in Secondary Schools"

On Tuesday March 8, 2022, the 42nd AJI Research Frontier Seminar took place online. Dr. Tomoyuki Chaya, a lecturer of Hyogo University of Teacher Education, gave a presentation in English describing the lives of teenage girls in secondary school in the urban slums of Delhi, India, and their ambitions to overcome social barriers and parental restrictions to pursue a contemporary urban life. He noted that previous studies had failed to adequately capture the activities of the poor youth who accessed shopping malls and upscale neighborhoods while concealing their low social status to socialize with people from higher strata of society and live the urban life to which they aspired. Parents must exercise strict control to shield their girls from the crime, alcohol and abuse that pervades the surroundings. How then could they achieve their social aspirations? Education has opened the door to go out and see friends under a strict curfew, on condition they fulfill their household duties. In one case study, even after failing her exams, one ambitious girl attended extra classes in a cybercafé close to her slum. Having fulfilled her mother’s expectations she was permitted to go to the café for study, after which she hung out with her middle-class friends and pursued her dreams of an urban life. Another girl attending a middle-class secondary school was the only person among her friends from a slum. They would go to the park to chat, sing, and dance while watching YouTube on a friend’s smartphone. She strictly followed her mother’s curfew and was thus allowed to continue playing with her friends for an hour after school and even enjoyed a friend’s birthday party.

Thus experiencing a secondary education has helped youth from Indian slum neighborhoods to overcome the cumulative disadvantages to realize their modern aspirations and experience the modern elements essential to the urban life they aspired to.

This revealing presentation was followed by a Q&A session where the attendees enquired about the social strata of Indian society, and the possibility of upward mobility to a completely middleclass lifestyle. Dr. Chaya explained that their young aspirations are presently limited to sharing the pleasures enjoyed by their middleclass counterparts. When asked about the difficulties of researching the lives of these protected young girls, he explained that it was possible by gaining the trust of the parents and maintain strict protocols.

Dr. Chaya delivering his presentation

Please visit the following link for previous AJI Frontier Seminars: