Course: Fabric Painting and Module 1 of MES Assistant Plumbing
Course Duration: 10 days
Total number of Participants: 60
Gender: 40 Female 20 Male
Number of first time computer users: 60
The Kumbitankuzhy Tribal Settlement is composed of two tribes: the Muthavan and Hill Pulaya. Following years of political persecution, the tribes were re-settled by the Government from Mudarai, Tamil Nadu to Idukki. While both communities share an extensive history of social repression, the Hill Pulaya community is considerably less economically developed, and is of the majority in Kumbitankuzhy. Given this background, the researchers felt it pertinent to extend the focus of the study to observing the unique interaction between a rather ostracized community and ICT-driven vocational education. Pre-Course surveys revealed only three percent of the participants had ever used a computer; the small percentage that had, were composed of youth in school.
Based on assessments during the exploratory site visit stage, a preliminary training schedule was devised. Approximately 20 participants would receive training through the computers for two hours a day, followed by exposure to actual materials with a live skilled trainer for one hour. However, despite interest expressed during the exploratory phase for a computer-based course, no community members had actually registered for the course. Individuals revealed initial skepticism over the computer-based course actually coming to their community despite prior visits by the research team. One participant commented, “So many organizations come in and claim to bring changes to our community. Over the years, we’ve learned to not let ourselves get too excited about all these things.” Researchers convened a community hall meeting to re-introduce community members to the course and register participants. Since the entire community met target population requirements, the course was made available to anyone above the age of 14. While community members voiced eagerness to register for the course, scheduling conflicts called for a modification in the deployment plan. It was later apparent that a definitive training schedule could only be finalized once a base-line rapport was built between the researchers and tribal settlement members.
Given that a significant majority (97 %) of the participants reported no prior use of the computer, the first two hours of training on the computers was dedicated to becoming acclimated with basic computer functionalities required in the course via the mouse and graphic tablet tutorials. Users required initial support from program staff to open the application, log-in, and navigate through the course chapters. After each participant demonstrated ability to navigate through the application independently, they were permitted to go on to the course.
A majority of the “two-per-computer” users demonstrated quicker ease with computer functionality than those that sat “one-per-computer.” The company of a peer invariably sped up the novice users’ computing abilities. However, the performance between one and two people per computers, did not pose a statistically significant difference. Both cohorts were able to navigate independently by the close of the first day’s training session.
Following two hours on the computer, participants received practical lessons with a skilled fabric painting teacher for one hour. Live lessons emphasized key concepts taught through the computerized course. On the seventh day, each student was given a plain sari to serve as the practical hands-on component. By the tenth day, each student completed the design of their own fabric painted sari.
A typical fabric painting course according to Directorate of Adult Education curriculum requires 140 hours of instruction (theory and practical work combined). The computerized fabric painting course, however, was completed within 30 hours over the course of 10 days. Additionally, dependency on the skilled trainer was also reduced by 66 percent.
Over 50 percent of the participants dropped out of school before completing their basic education. Researchers conducted a focus group to better understand the dynamics of educational attainment within the tribal community and how the ICT-based fabric-painting course motivated individuals who might have never considered further education of any kind, to attend the training. The focus group was comprised of: four youth; two unemployed, two employed and two stay-at home mothers. All had prematurely discontinued education.
Voice of Participants
Stay-at-home Mother: “For generations, we have all been doing daily wage. My great grandfather was a daily wageworker, so was my grandfather, father and now even I am a daily wageworker. The next generation has to be different. I want to see something different for my children. The computer-fabric painting course has opened our eye – to something different.”
Unemployed: “I was not doing much else at home. My uncle encouraged me to take this training because it was offered through computers. But I would like to use what I learn to earn some money and support my family.”
Employed: “Our jobs are not permanent. So it’s good if we become as skilled as possible in different areas to increase likelihood of employment.”
Youth: “I never thought I would get the chance to use a computer. The fact that this course was through computers excited me. Having learned fabric painting through computers has made me see that I can really earn a living this way. I hope to use what I’ve learned here to make some money for myself and family.”
Computers as a social equalizing mechanism:
Youth: “Most of the children our age stopped school simply because we lost interest in school. At school, we were teased by the other students for being from a tribal community.
Unemployed: “There isn’t any difference between “us” and “them” anymore. We also know how to use the computers now and have learned a skill that will help us earn money.”
While only 3 percent of the participants reported ever having used a computer prior to the course during pre-course interviews, by the second day of training, all of the participants were able to function on the computer and application independently.