Digital Education VSeEC

Digital Education VSeEC

Vicki Standish eEducation Centre

Like most government schools in rural India, the standard of local schools is very poor. Government schools in the area are highly under resourced, suffering from sub-standard infrastructure, large teacher-student ratios, irregular teacher attendance (which has a dramatic impact on teacher motivation), and lack of equipment and teaching materials.

This continues to lower motivation among children to attend school and increases the already high level of illiteracy. Statistics reveal that 50 per cent of 5th Grade children in Tamil Nadu cannot read even a paragraph in Tamil, their native language (see AID India: http://chennai.aidindia.org/education.html). Student attendance in local schools is low. In addition, there is a very high drop-out rate, with less than 1/3rd of residents in the area educated up to secondary level (see Post Tsunami Health Care in Rural Areas). Although private schools do exist, the tuition fees are unaffordable for most families, as are costs of additional tuition. For those that do manage to do relatively well in school, the options for higher study are very limited as access to either tertiary institutions or training facilities is very difficult and also unaffordable.

TEWFI has been working with the staff and community at the Alamparai Government Middle School (located in the Alamparai fishing community) for some years now. Before TEWFI stepped in to assist, the basic infrastructure of the school was very limited.

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TEWFI has since assisted in the following ways

  • Provision of desks and fans for classrooms
  • Provision of a school kitchen
  • Construction of fencing around the school
  • Employment of one full-time teacher to assist the school to combat the problem of poor teacher attendance, with the aim of eventually employing more teachers
  • Computer classes for the children, computer training for teachers, and on-call support for technical problems with computers
  • Health, hygiene, and physical education initiatives developed by TEWFI social workers.
  • Regular after-school English tuition classes organised and monitored by TEWFI social workers, and run by TEWFI volunteers.
  • Construction of the school’s first toilet facilities, as previously children had no option but to relieve themselves in public in unsanitary conditions. In addition, as evidence of TEWFI’s long-term commitment, TEWFI also employs a local caretaker for these toilets to ensure that they are cleaned, monitored and maintained.
  • Environmental education classes, as part of the Coastal Environment Education Centre‘s activities
  • Provision of safe drinking water (in progress)

Other Service

In addition to the local middle school at Alamparai, TEWFI has begun to assist at the local high school at Kadapakkam, in the following ways:

  • Construction of fencing around the school
  • Construction of the school’s first female toilet block

VSEEC Computer Programs

History

TEWFI has built an e-Education Center. Officially opened on 22 January 2008, this is the first computer center for this rural region. Located adjacent to the Uluru Children’s Home (UCH), this center is accessible to the residents from surrounding villages, in addition to the children from UCH.

Engineers Without Borders Australia, have provided their technical support for the establishment.

Due to insufficient funds, the e-Education Center currently features only nine PC work stations. However, we are urgently seeking more financial support to cater for our aim of expanding the network to make it into a multi functional center featuring a projector and a total of 35 computers. This function of the center is to cater to the ongoing, long-term educational needs of the children at UCH.

TEWFI has employed local IT-literate staff to run and maintain this computer center and help those visiting it.Generous supporters who have made this center possible are:

      • Alternative for India Development (AID India)
      • Linux Users Group, IIT Chennai
      • MSSRF (M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation).

However, sponsors are still needed to ensure the e-Education Center is adequately equipped as early as possible. As an example, on one day on a weekend, 50 local children, on average, will visit the center. Due to the lack of computers, these children must spend most of their time waiting for their turn. A small plaque dedicating the computer to you or to your company will be displayed on site, and all donors will be provided with a tax deductible receipt and thank you letter.

Computer for Education

As India is progressing towards rapid development, with a focus on information and communication technology (ICT) as one of its main industries, having basic computer skills is almost a necessity. These skills will undoubtedly increase educational and employment opportunities for all.TEWFI recently opened the Vicki Standish e-Education Centre on land adjacent to the Uluru Children’s Home (UCH). The local staff who run this centre conduct regular classes which provide necessary ICT education to a wide range of target groups. Current and past classes and training courses include:

      • Basic computer skill classes for the children at UCH in the recent past.
      • Present focus on computer facilitated learning for UCH children.
      • Daily IT classes for children and youth from the wider community which attract large number of students. Classes range from basic computer skills to MS Powerpoint, Photoshop, Excel, Pagemaker and Macromedia Flash.
      • Computer Education Programme (CPE) targetting the youth within the community who are reliant upon fishing for their livelihood. The CPE shows them the benefits and opportunities possible through the use of computers. A total of 39 young people from three communities (Kadapakkam, Thandumariamman and Othukauttamman Kuppams) were selected based on their interest and basic knowledge of English. Upon completion of the course they were provided a Certificate in Basic Computer Skills from Alternative for India Development (AID India).
      • Basic computer skills classes are held for unemployed local youth during the day.
      • Computer training classes are held for teachers and TEWFI staff in, for example, the usage of Tamil-based software.
      • Sunday access to computers is provided for a teacher and group of children from the local primary school.
      • A successful workshop was held in May 2008 on the use of educational software for 13 primary teachers from the villages of Kadapakkam, Alamparai, Vembanur and Kolaturi.
      • Further workshops are planned, for example, on basic Linux usage.

In addition to enabling the teaching of basic computer skills, the use of computers as a teaching tool is important as this allows children to work at their own pace, and motivates self-directed learning. Recently, the e-Education Centre has become a place for computer facilitated learning after the generous donation of software from the Azim Premji Foundation. This software is for students of Classes 1 through 8, in the areas of Tamil, Math, English, Science, Social Science and General Knowledge.

This software is currently used by the children at UCH, as part of their educational enrichment program in the evenings and during weekends. It is also popular with children from the wider community.

Computer Wallah Project

Since October 2009, The Vicky Standish electronic Education Centre (VSeEC) staff have been running this project at local schools and in the community to provide a free of charge, highly accessible, mobile computer-assisted instruction program which uses an innovative combination of ‘netbooks‘ – essentially ultra portable, low power consuming laptops – running customized school curriculum content in multiple languages including Tamil, English and Hindi. This program we call “Computer Wallah” (CW).

Aims of Computer Wallah Project

  • To improve the literacy skills of the children and provide them with better understanding in their own language and the English language
  • To develop the academic knowledge of the children through e-learning
  • To provide the children with computer based literacy which will help them with basic computer operation
  • To reinforce the academic syllabus taught by the class teacher
  • More widely, as we move beyond the initial pilot phase, to benefit various cross-sections of the community including women, unemployed youth, farmers, and fishermen based on the same principle of accessibility and customized, relevant, local language-based content

eCOW Project

Whatever project TEWFI initiates we would like it to make a great difference in the Community. In August 2010 as one of our initiatives TEWFI launched and ran the Mobile Computer Wallah Project. The impact of the project was significant. We have decided to deliver this project in as eClassroom on Wheels due to the inadequate facilities (Space, table, chairs, electricity etc) in the communities and in the schools.

TEWFI has recently obtained generous donations from the Cognizant Foundation under their Corporate Social Responsibility for establishing e-Classroom on Wheels Project. A 32 seater mini bus will be altered to allow 20 to 25 students to attend classes inside the bus. Each seat will have a foldable tray at the rear where a netbook computer can be placed. The bus will have air conditioning to allow the students to concentrate better in a comfortable environment, especially during summer and there will also be an LCD screen or LCD TV which will be fixed in front of the bus. There will also be the opportunity to operate a portable LCD. We think that as a result the he students will feel as if they are in a normal classroom. The door will be closed once the students enter the bus. This concept will help us run classes in villages where it was previously impossible. Less importantly, it will also reduce the time consumed for arranging rooms, furniture, electricity supply etc. In this project the school children will be taught their range of subjects such as Tamil, English, Maths, and Science, using the Azim Premzi Foundation’s Education software.

Cognizant Foundation has asked that a pilot project be run in two schools and that they then be provided with a report on the pilot project. At the completion of the pilot project TEWFI will then extend the project to students in 5 local schools, children in 5 local communities, and the young people and adolescent girls in 4 local communities. This will mean the bus will be used not only to provide Computer Education but also to educate women, children, adolescent girls, and the young people on various health issues such as personal hygiene, sexual education, reproductive and child health care and various relevant Government schemes.

All the modifications and the installments of equipments inside the bus to run the class was finished on 12th May 2011. It was planned to run a Summer School Programme in two local villages to test the workability of the equipments. The below links will take you to the detailed programme plan and the completion report of the programme.

Please follow this link to know more about the original proposal submitted to the Cognizant Foundation. The below links are the applications and other supporting documents for NASSCOM Social Innovation Honors 2012.

Digital Literacy Project for Women

The Vicki Standish e-Education Centre has been receiving technical and other support from expert organisations and introducing an innovative programme in a rural community where computer and other technologies are inaccessible. TEWFI has recently established a rapport with the Rotary Club of Madras Midtown, Digital Literacy Exnora and Indiss Infotech Solutions Pvt Ltd We have obtained self tutoring software which is developed specifically to be used without an instructor. Simply by following the instructions, the knowledge of basic computer operations is imparted. This project was recently introduced for women, adolescent girls and children in the community.

Presently, more than 25 children in the community and 10 children at UCH have undergone this training and have achieved impressive results. This programme has helped those children and adults, who have never seen computers, to learn basic computer operations such as MS office, Internet usage and other operations. We are seeking funds to purchase a mini bus which will be altered in such a way that computer students can operate and learn computing inside the bus itself. We firmly believe this will benefit those people who are very much interested in getting an education in computing but are not able to access our existing center, the Vicki Standish e-Education center.

Digital Education VSeEC

Local Schools’ Basic Provisions

Village Knowledge Center

TEWFI targets the local community, where previously there was no immediate access to information regarding Health, Education, Employment, Farming or Fishing, which is crucial for community development. This was due to a lack of awareness among the community but also due to a lack of technology. This meant the development of the community was impede as members were unable to effectively or efficiently complete tasks. Correct information can provide a stimulus for ideas, allowing people to choose better, more appropriate options. It can also help them find experts in the relevant areas. Before the input of TEWFI and initiation of the Village Knowledge Centre, the community was informally provided with information that was available to us via online and offline sources.
MS Swaminathan Research Foundation is an expert in the project and has established Village Knowledge Centres all over Tamil Nadu and other States. TEWFI wanted to share in their expertise whilst setting up the project in Edaikazhinadu Panchayat. A good rapport has been established between TEWFI and the MS Swaminathan research Foundation and a data base has been shared.
Official inauguration of the project occurred at the Vicki Standish e-Education Centre on 28.09.2009. After the project inauguration, people from all around Edaikazhinadu Panchayat came to the centre and accessed information which is vital for community development. For activities run and organised by the Foundation, Social Workers access information through the Village Knowledge Centre and disseminate it into the community.
An alternative way to disseminate information is when people come to the centre, they are provided with references through appropriate sources. If the data is not available offline, it is obtained through the internet resources. Sometimes experts in the field are consulted to obtain relevant information. Some examples of the nature of information provided through our Village Knowledge Centre is examination results for the School and University students, filling and tracking of online passport applications, employment news, Health information. College directories, e-ticket booking, PNR enquiry and typing of resumes or petitions etc.

Success stories: A 12th Std student who came to the Computer Centre and volunteered at VSeEC had ambition for Higher Studies. His ambition was to undertake a Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He had no idea about the universities that offered this course. He was also unable to afford to pay for the course. He was able to access information for his Higher Education through Village Knowledge Centre Data Base. He also has accessed information for applying for an educational loan. He joined in a college with the information accessed from VKC and received guidance from the staff. He is now doing the course by accessing the Education Loan offered under Education Schemes of the Government.
Another youth was looking for employment. He was attending the Spoken English Programme organized at VSeEC. He accessed information regarding the employment opportunity in Air India. All the formalities like filling in the application and applying for the posting were done at VSeEC. All the information regarding the interview process was given. He was also given all the guidance for the preparation. He cleared all the formalities and now he has joined as a security agent in Air India.
We have also been maintaining the list of beneficiaries. Click here to view the list of beneficiaries through this centre.

Workshops and Trainings

A lack of resources and underutilisation of those resources that exist are a major reason for the low standard of education in the local school. Despite Government initiatives to improve resources in schools, the progress is slow. It is also necessary for teachers to be trained in the effective utilisation of the available resources so educational outcomes can be improved.
Teachers in the Government schools in the Edaikazhinadu Panchayat lack skills in computer operation and the use of other modem technologies which are provided by the Government to the schools. The children cannot visualise or conceptualise what is being taught because teachers are unable to demonstrate and model in a meaningful way. Apart from new technologies, teachers need to be able to show their students what is required to reinforce the learning process. The lack of exposure to good teaching methods can cause the children to feel inferior and isolated when they progress to higher education.
Our Foundation has conducted workshops for the teachers in the local schools on computer literacy and also on using the educational software obtained from the Azim Premji Foundation. About 25 teachers participated in the training. They found that this training was very useful as they are not able to use the computers in their schools because they lack the necessary skills. After organising this programme, the teachers were able to operate a computer.
After graduation the students need to be prepared for taking seminar classes using Power Point software. In order to assist them TEWFI has been providing training to the Higher Secondary Schools Students in the preparation of a Power Point Presentation. A presentation done by the Higher Secondary School students at VSeEC is given as a link here.

Proud Sponsor of TEWFI

These are some of our proud Sponsors

UNPS ICT Class

Children are never too young to learn and benefit from the use of computers. Twice weekly the students supplement their classroom learning at the computer center with online experiences.

 

UCH Class

The UCH Children have the privilege of the use of the computer center. They explore and learn programs such as MS-word, Paint, Photoshop and have access to the benefits and proper use of the internet.

Women's Class

VSeEC staff go into the local community to provide computer skills to the women who otherwise would not have access to classes to learn these new skills.

Summer Tech Program at VSeEC

During the summer the computer center is open to the local community children with classes that will help them to expand their knowledge and use of the computer.

UCH Weekend Class

The children are so enthused about computer learning that they spend some of their free time on Saturday  at the computer center.

Certificate Distribution

After hard work and completing the class the students are given a certificate of completion.