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.
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)
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
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.
Computer Wallah Project
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
eClassroom on Wheels (eC0w) Project
Computer Knowledge for Local Women
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.
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 Center, 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 Centers 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 Center on 28.09.2009. After the project inauguration, people from all around Edaikazhinadu Panchayat came to the center and accessed information which is vital for community development. For activities run and organized by the Foundation, Social Workers access information through the Village Knowledge Center and disseminate it into the community.
An alternative way to disseminate information is when people come to the center, 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 Center 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.
A 12th Std student who came to the Computer Center 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 Center 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 center.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After hard work and completing the class the students are given a certificate of completion.