In a small, dusty and remote village named Basantpur in Uttar Pradesh, education for the children was indeed a luxury and the dropout rate was very high. Th
Children in Basantpur would rarely attend morning classes in the village primary school and the teacher would rarely turn up for the classes. Children could not afford to spend eight hours in schools as they were required to help their parents in the daily struggle for existence.
In the midst of such under development, when the government established Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya some years back, the villagers could not identify with the purpose of a residential school in the community. The common thought was that the school was mainly for the rich children in the community. The elders would smirk at the high boundary walls of the school. ‘Amiro ka school’ or ‘a school for the rich children’ was what it was nicknamed.
The school authorities were also facing a lot of resentment in the village. Few children from the richer families did join but others stayed away. So far their efforts to enroll village children in school had been futile.
Intel Learn Program being an out-of-school programme, the involvement of the community was necessary. As such it was an uphill task to convince the community to send their children to school and on top of that the parents had to be convinced to send their children after school working hours. There was resistance from almost all members. They were suspicious; they thought it was a money-making scheme and that they would be required to pay after the course was over; they thought it was a complete waste of time.
Rajesh Kumar Dubey was the computer teacher at JNV Sidharthnagar at the time. He spoke to the parents about the Intel Learn Program curriculum and how it would enhance the communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills of children. Slowly but surely, the children started enrolling for Intel Learn Program and this year (2007) ninety-two children from the village enrolled and completed the training.
But this story is not about how many children accepted the Intel Learn Program. It is about the impact of the programme on the community. The learners went back with stories on how they learnt to use the computer, how they could create projects on the computer and more importantly how this program enabled them to think about the problems in the community and search for solutions. Gradually, the community became aware of the positive impact of Intel Learn Program and JNV that was implementing this Programme.
Intel Learn Program is an effort to reach out to the children and adolescents in communities with limited or no access to technology. The Programme is designed to encourage 21st century learning skills and develop technology skills, critical thinking and collaboration among the learners through effective community based education, propagated by successful models of learning outside the formal school setting. Aimed at learners’ aged 8–16, the curriculum is particularly appropriate for those who live in communities with limited access to technology. The curriculum can accommodate community technology centers with a wide range of technology infrastructure – from newer, more sophisticated facilities to those with fewer resources. In India the Programme is running successfully across 15 States having touched more than 40,000 learners from underprivileged backgrounds.
“Learning modern skills, free of cost was the motivational factor in sending the children to undertake the program”, says the Principal, Ram Bir Singh. ‘Poor parents cannot afford to spend money on their children for learning modern technology. So they often discourage their children from continuing their education. Intel Learn Program has, in fact, promoted education amongst the villagers’.
The earlier nicknamed ‘Amiro ka school’ has since become ‘Sab ka school’ or a school for all children. It is easy to see the attitudinal change in the community as parents put on their best clothes and display their best behavior while visiting the school.
Priya Tripathi, a 12 year old girl got the opportunity to explore the world through the internet. She says, “I want to become a doctor when I grow up”. Priya’s partner, Meera says, “This programme will definitely help me have a better future”.
The Intel Learn Program has changed the lives of the Basantpur community. It has helped them to understand the intrinsic value of education and encourage their children to go to school and stay in school. A process to connect the villagers to the world of change has been initiated …