Even as elections are upon us, with the attendant politics and talk of change, Spectrum brings stories of positive change from Karnataka. Of how a rural government school brings hope for its students, and a Trust provides sustainable livelihoods for women in Kanakapura taluk.
More than six years back, in an article for this newspaper titled, Password to Progress, I had described the dreams and life of children in rural government schools with Computer Aided Learning through the eyes of three sparkling 12-year-old children. This is an update on these children - 19 years of age now and on the threshold of more hopes, dreams and aspirations. What are they doing now? Not many drop-outs What more needs to be done... Microcosm of the country S. Giridhar
Back in November 2002, Poojashree, Nandini and Pratap were students of Class VII at the government school, Hemmanahalli, one among the 35 schools where the Computer Aided Learning pilot programme was initiated. This initiative was subsequently expanded to 2,600 schools in all districts of Karnataka.
It was not as though I chose them for the story that I wrote then. It was almost as though they had chosen themselves as the protagonists of my story to describe the efforts that some of our rural governments schools are making to provide their students a fulfilling learning experience.
But six years is a long time. What are our three friends from Hemmanahalli doing now? Although I never visited the school after November 2002, tracing them after six years was no big deal. So, on a nippy Monday morning in January 2009 we reach Hemmanahalli in Maddur taluk, 70 kilometres from Bangalore. And head straight to the school. Within minutes the three youngsters arrive. All three are doing extremely well. They scored over 70 per cent in their SSLC and PUC and are now in their first year of graduation. Pratap is doing his B Com. He says he would like to become a chartered accountant. Poojashree will pursue post graduation in biology. Nandini says she cleared the CET exam for engineering but got admission in a college far from Tumkur and therefore decided to do her Bachelors in Computer Application. She thinks that if things turn out well, she may even go abroad.
Although Poojashree is the one who is relatively better off - her parents are educated, her grandfather a retired school inspector has been her guiding spirit - both Nandini and Pratap come from modest backgrounds. Pratap’s father ekes out a livelihood as a farmer with a small landholding. Pratap often does some farm labour to take care of the finances required for his education. Nandini’s father is a bus driver and although her parents are very supportive she could not have pursued her education without the financial support of her maternal grandmother.
I had visited all three homes last time and I did so this time, too. Pooja’s home looks nicely renovated – they seem to be doing well for themselves. We then thread our way through the narrow village lanes and visit Nandini’s home. When her mother posed for photos with Nandini, the pride in her daughter almost brought a lump to our throats. We then walked across to Pratap’s home. Pratap’s father, unlike last time, when he had gotten into a scrap with someone from a neighbouring village, was at home this time. Quite cheerful and humorous, he was more comfortable describing his farming than talking about Pratap.
We go back to the school and resume our conversation. How have their classmates fared? It is interesting that of their 50 classmates, only three dropped out after Class VIII. In fact, 12 of them completed their PUC and another nine have continued into graduation. Seven classmates are doing their ITI, diplomas in Nursing and Education. While six girls from their class have got married (all six completed at least their SSLC if not PUC), 11 of their classmates are employed in garment factories, in workshops, after completing their SSLC, PUC or the ITI course. So Hemmanahalli’s record definitely seems encouraging in a scenario where hardly four out of every 100, who enter class I in a government schools pursue education beyond Class 12.
I then ask them the one big drawback that they see in their education. In unison they say that they suffer the most because they do not know English. They say they scored more than 60 per cent in their English exam in SSLC, but that it means nothing. They are certain that unless English is taught to them from early schooling - so as to be able to converse, read and write, they will always be at a disadvantage, when compared to “children with lower ability but who are able to speak in English” as Nandini points out. In fact I think they only know as much English now as they knew when they were 12 years old.
This is an issue where Hemmanahalli is representative of the entire state and country and that needs looking into. Soon it is time to wave our good byes. I promise myself that I will not wait six years to meet my young friends again.
(The author is Head – Programs and Advocacy at Azim Premji Foundation)
More than six years back, in an article for this newspaper titled, Password to Progress, I had described the dreams and life of children in rural government schools with Computer Aided Learning through the eyes of three sparkling 12-year-old children. This is an update on these children - 19 years of age now and on the threshold of more hopes, dreams and aspirations.
What are they doing now?
Not many drop-outs
What more needs to be done...
Microcosm of the country