Touring villages and spreading the word on digital literacy, the bus is a harbinger of hope for young learners
What caught my eye on entering the Zila Parishad (ZP) Primary School, Mordewadi, was the Computer Bus, which I had come to write on, standing stoically a little distance away from the gate, on the school promises.
The Computer Bus is part of the CSR initiative of FIAT, titled Learning Enrichment and Advancement Programme (LEAP), and is being implemented in six ZP schools, at Shirur, since June 2017, by IL& FS Education. LEAP helps schools improve their educational outcomes, by offering comprehensive solutions, a blend of technology infrastructure, teaching-learning resources and relevant capacity building initiatives supported by project management, and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). Diverse tools such as multimedia labs, adding dimensions boards, mentors in schools, English/maths/science kits, and life skills, among others, are integral members of this initiative.
The Computer Bus was introduced in this school, which imparts education to approximately 400 boys and girls, till class VIII, about four years ago. Such was the impact of the initiative, that the school head, Shailendra Chikhale, spearheaded a ‘movement’ of sorts, to ensure that the school gets equipped with the latest computers, 22 of them, for the sustenance of the benefit that teachers and students had earned, thanks to the Computer Bus. With the joint effort of the community, teachers, parents, school management committee, and, of course, the school, the dream of many students, has seen the light of the day. The pride and joy is audible in the voice of Chikhale, as he emotionally recounts the milestone achieved.
Unable to contain myself, I hop into the bus, and adjust myself, albeit awkwardly, amidst the gathered class VI- VII students. The yellow bus, with attractive caricatures covering its body, is an attraction on the exterior, as much as it is on the interior. The K-Yan or knowledge vehicle, a multipurpose device, which converts any surface into an interactive board, manages to captivate the attention of the bubbly audience. Says Swapnil Gadekar, the coordinator for the bus, “Switching on the computer is a memorable experience; each of these kids will always remember that; then comes the use of the keyboard and the mouse, followed by software such as MS Word, Paintbrush and MS Excel; opening an e-mail account and surfing on the net for answers to trillions of questions these kids have, is a delight for each student.”
The Computer Bus also tours neighbouring villages, spreading the word on digital literacy to whoever wants to be a part of this ‘movement’. “The eager faces, the curious faces, the delighted faces, the change in behaviour, the confidence…It’s is all worth it…’” says Ganesh Kadlag, English teacher and community mobiliser, who is part of the team.
My next stop is a classroom. I find a place in between the students. “When you are happy, and you know it, and you really want to show it, clap your hands…:” This catchy number, coupled with actions and voice by the students was not only heart-warming, but also emotional — it carried such a simple, yet poignant message of life — happiness is unconditional. The energy, the determination, the motivation, the enthusiasm to make the best of what life offered, come what way, is something I had learnt, but lost over the years…the mechanical way we live our lives in a fast paced, dog-eats-dog world, has resulted in most of us drifting apart from the essence of living: in little, there is so much.