Armed with life skills

Armed with life skills


Teaching in India is a monologue where the participation of the student is rarely expected. Then, there is the school curriculum which does not prepare students to solve problems such as changing a tubelight or fixing a leaky tap or even taking accurate measurements, all situations one encounters at some point or the other.

But, this is not true of the 150 high school students of Sri Someshwara School in Dombaranahalli village. These students of Tumkur district’s Turuvekere taluk can easily carry out tasks like laying a water line or installing an electric wiring for a home or even preparing sweets. These students are good at masonry as well. They have built a room for themselves and have also volunteered to repair the roof tiles of the local bus stand.

They have also raised a nursery for areca plants, which are eventually sold. The school has been able to transform archaic classroom teaching into a fun exercise, at the same time equipping rural students with skills to take on the world.

“We started this Introduction to Basic Technology (IBT) programme about five years ago. Some of us were trained in these concepts at the Vigyan Ashram which was started by Kalbagh in Pune. Three teachers from the school spent time at the Ashram and learnt various skills and teaching methodologies. Most of the students in our school come from economically poor backgrounds and we wanted to provide them with life skills in case they discontinue their studies after their tenth standard,” says Ratnamma, Headmistress of the school.

One day every week, either a Friday or a Saturday, is devoted to learning these skills.
These are categorised into four themes – ‘Home and Health’ (students learn how to prepare sweets, finding out blood groups, sewing, knitting, etc), ‘Energy and Environment ‘(students learn how to raise a nursery, plant grafting techniques, surveying the land, building checkdams, repairing electrical appliances such as an iron box, earthing technique, coil winding of motors, drawing electric lines, changing switch holders, bulbs and basic soldering), ‘Workshop’ (masonry work, repairing tiled roofs, building concrete slabs, walls, basic carpentry work including making chairs and tables), ‘Agriculture and Animal Husbandry’ (measuring weight of livestock, testing soil, vermicomposting, sowing, drip irrigation, cutting grass, etc ).

Vijaykumar who is the co-ordinator of these classes says “extreme care is taken to teach them about safety techniques. For example, the students make it a point to switch off the mains whenever they are changing bulbs or drawing a new electric wire.” Vijaykumar proudly says that some of the students who could not afford to study after their tenth standard have become entrepreneurs.

The students also feel empowered and are able to tackle some of the problems that they encounter at their homes without having to rely on a technician to repair it, thereby saving money.

Some of the students who have gone on to take up their diploma in technical courses, are more confident in their studies. The initial training has helped them hone their skills.

Good pass percentage
However, devoting time for these skills has not come in the way of regular textbook learning. In fact, the school has consistently been getting a pass percentage of more than 80 per cent in the tenth standard examinations, even securing 98 per cent pass percentage in a particular year. Vijaykumar attributes this to their method of teaching.

Ratnamma acknowledges the immense support and funding that the school has received from the Yuva Foundation, Bangalore for the first three years of the programme and Sumathi of RK Foundation.

“From the last one year, an organisation called Lending A Helping Hand has been footing the costs of the materials and consumables needed for the training. Every month, it costs approximately Rs 8,000 only for the materials needed to run these classes. Two trained teachers at the school conduct these classes for free while there are two external trainers who have to be paid every month. But this year, their funding has almost stopped.

The school cannot raise funds from tuition fees as they charge a paltry sum of Rs 250 annually from students as fees (which include admission and monthly fees). Even this is met with great difficulty by their parents. If we raise this any higher, we will only see drop outs,” Ratnamma points out. Such hurdles notwithstanding, the school continues to prepare students to take on life with enthusiasm.