I visited the Swami Vivekananda Rural Community college near Pondichery with prof Swaminathan and his wife on Monday September 25th.
This is being run as a technical education center for lower middle class students who struggle to continue education for financial or other reasons. The college offers practical training in various mechanical, electrical and computer engineering to their 150 students. Their labs are now sponsored and equipped by companies like Dell Siemens Renault Yamaha etc.
Students learn such skills as
- repairing or servicing motorbikes, scooters, cars including
- repairing and servicing plumbing equipment
- software skills such as Microsoft Office, Tally
- repairing and servicing desktop and laptop computers and their electronics
- design of pamphlets posters invitations programs etc
- medical assistance including for elderly people, pregnant women
Several of these students go on to become entrepreneurs, while quite a few find employment in these companies or others around Pondichery. Several girls are also enrolled, and there is an entire room of both mechanical and electrical sewing machines where they learn various tailoring and embroidery techniques.
We were given a thirty minute tour of several of the labs and classrooms, by a member of the staff Mr Santosh. His pride in the service he was doing and the success of some of the college's students was palpable in his voice. Since we arrived late in the day most of the students had left for the day, and we only spoke very briefly to one student.
The college was founded by Mr Subramaniam, a former colleague of Prof Swaminathan at Delhi, who literally asked for five and ten rupees donations to start this college several years ago. Mr Subramaniam's whole family including wife, son and daughter in law are engaged full time in running this college. They say they dont seek or take any assistance from government organizations. Mr Santosh mentioned that besides teaching the skills they also give basic etiquette training, as in dressing properly, showing up with a presentable appearance, proper behaviour and speech etc.
The college reminded me somewhat of Sevalaya's Mahakavi Bharathi school near Thiruninravur, run primarily by the efforts of Mr Muralidharan.
I must confess, that while the efforts of the founders of such charitable organizations dedicated to education are extremely laudable, I wonder if they are not taking on too big a challenge, trying to outdo what state or local governments are providing with a much larger financial base. I wonder about the sustainability of these ventures past the energetic lives of their founders or most active organizers. Then it occurs to me even governments and private companies have exactly the same issue - in fact, thanks to elections, governments have even briefer tenures : it is the bureaucracy that carries on the larger and somewhat onerous task. Regardless of my prejudice or skepticism they seem to be doing an amazing job.
School Education in Tamilnadu - My translation of Jeyamohan's essay
Education - a Sanskrit proverb