April 26, 2010
What do fabric painting and plumbing have in common?
On the surface, not much, but when it comes to acquiring a meaningful livelihood, girls living in the tribal settlement of Kumbitankuzhy in Kerala found out that they could learn both skills and look forward to an employable future.
When Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham’s S.A.V.E. (Sakshat Amrita Vocational Education) project team arrived in March to present a new world of possibilities, they quickly came on board. They signed up for the ten-day course to be given concurrently in plumbing and fabric painting.
Although this was the first time S.A.V.E. was engaging with this settlement in Idukki District in Kerala, people here were familiar with Amrita. The Amrita Jan Shikshan Sansthan (the local peoples’ society) had run many vocational training programs for them.
What was different this time was that the participants would learn using computers.
“We established a timetable for them; the girls would attend class between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.,” shared S.A.V.E. team member Srividya Sheshadri, who together with her colleagues, Rahul Jaydas, Preejamol P. B. and Hari P. Ajayan conducted the classes in the tribal settlement.
The course included online theory for two hours daily and practical sessions for a few hours. Resource experts, one in plumbing from AIMS and one in fabric painting from Idukki, provided additional guidance.
“For most participants, it was their first experience with using a computer,” shared Srividya. “Many did not feel at ease in the beginning but they quickly learned. We wanted to teach them skills they could apply in daily life.”
Most participants learned both plumbing and fabric painting. They received free saris that they used for learning the finer techniques of paint application. Template designs created by the resource expert were made available.
The students decided what they wanted to get out of the plumbing course; the most feasible goal was to establish a second water tap for the community. Kumbitankuzhy had only one tap, which meant long waits in very long lines to get water.
Designed by S.A.V.E. experts, the curriculum of the plumbing program was supplemented with DGET (Directorate Generate of Employment and Training) manuals and ITC texts on plumbing.
The course ended with the 45 participants, who ranged in ages from 16 to mid 20’s, and a few in their 30’s, receiving Certificates of Completion at a formal graduation ceremony. A brand new village water tap was installed by the new graduates.
“A few days after we returned to Amritapuri, we received a phone call from these new graduates,” shared Srividya. “They informed us that their original water tap had broken, but they had fixed it. They now had the know-how to solve the problem themselves!”
The beginning of S.A.V.E.’s long term venture funded by the MHRD (Ministry of Human Resources Development), this pilot program was just the first in a long series where girls and boys in villages will learn candle and soap making, carpentry and electrical repair work online.
There is a tremendous shortage of teachers and qualified resource people, so these online courses could prove to be very useful,” enthusiastically stated Srividya. “We are also working with innovations such as haptics to incorporate tactile feedback in the training modules.”
Why did this pilot program attract more girls than boys?
“The boys were perhaps not as eager to learn as the girls because many of them would miss ten days of daily wage earnings if they attended the online classes.”
But future courses may be different.
If one considers the potential of what online vocational training can bring to Indian villages, giving people a promising work future and helping build their self-esteem through the invaluable process of learning and mastering a trade and craft, the possibilities are endless.
Amrita can truly inspire the empowering of an entire generation.