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
A recent activity undertaken by TEWFI social workers with a broader focus was the distribution of “Success Is Yours” booklets. These booklets, from Madurai Institute of Social Sciences, give simple, practical advice to students on how to succeed at school.
Despite the energy invested in improving facilities and increasing teacher presence, progress is slow and the quality of education remains quite poor. Many of the students at the school can barely read or write Tamil or do basic math, while their English skills are non-existent. We have hope that in the long term, with additional facilities located outside the school and improved infrastructure within the school, improvements will be made.
Unfortunately, TEWFI presently lacks the resources to provide and maintain the same presence and level of engagement in the wider area. Nevertheless we have recently begun to extend our reach by targeting more schools, including those in farming areas – proving them with support in simple and cost-effective ways.
For example, one computer was recently installed in a local school at Vembanur. We are working with other NGOs to provide additional teacher training at the schools, and attempting to assist them with requests for additional resources. TEWFI recently opened an e-Education centre, as well as a Coastal Environment Education Centre (in conjunction with Pitchandikulam Bio Resource Centre – Auroville), and plans to set up a community library in the near future. Planning for the transportation of school students to the e-Education Centre is underway and similar systems will be developed for the other facilities.
If you are interested in contributing funds towards a better quality of education, TEWFI and the children of Alamparai and Kadapakkam would be extremely grateful. Any contribution, no matter how big or small, has the potential to make a genuine contribution to the future of these children. You may choose to nominate where your funds be spent – for example, the monthly salary for a professional and experienced teacher is approximately around Rs. 5000.
To donate to this extremely worthwhile cause, please visit our donations page for payment options. Please note that all donations made to TEWFI are tax deductible.
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.
TEWFI has built an e-Education Centre. Oficially opened on 22 January 2008, this is the first computer centre for this rural region. Located adjacent to the Uluru Children’s Home (UCH), this centre 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 Centre 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 multifunctional centre featuring a projector and a total of 35 computers. This function of the centre is to cater to the ongoing, long-term educational needs of the children at UCH, as well as to the wider community, by:
- Using IT for educational purposes: firstly, by providing basic IT education, and secondly, by facilitating learning via the use of IT
- Being a rural knowledge centre, once the computers are linked to a broadband internet server.
TEWFI has employed local IT-literate staff to run and maintain this computer centre and help those visiting it.
Generous supporters who have made this centre 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 Centre is adequately equipped as early as possible. As an example, on one day on a weekend, 50 local children, on average, will visit the centre. 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.
The “wishlist” for the e-Education Centre can be found here. Please take a minute to browse this list to see if you or someone you know would be willing to donate these urgently needed goods, resources or skills. Alternatively, please refer to the donations page if you would like to sponsor a workstation (around Rs. 25,000), or contact us for more inform