Since we started working with Dalit communities in Bihar State, India one of the main requests from the children was for IT classes. For several years, our partners have been running a Computer Centre, open to all children who attend our 31 Learning Centres in Bihar State and offering courses in basic computer skills.
The Computer Centre has proved to be a vital resource for Dalit children throughout lockdown, and we're pleased to say it has just reopened, offering classes to children again.
Our Computer Centre currently has 19 students enrolled (9 boys and 10 girls) in class, covering basic IT skills. As restrictions ease they are beginning to take regular lessons again, and this batch of students is expected to graduate later this year.
To help support graduates from the course, 69 children were recently invited to an online Career Guidance Workshop put on by the Computer Centre. The aim was to help them understand and pursue the options that are open to them with their new skills, so they looked at available courses, institutions, fees, admission processes, and future job opportunities.
The Computer Centre also helped 14 students who had taken exams in the government schools before lockdown, to access their results online and download them. Many schools assume children have the use of laptops or smartphones at home, but very few of the Dalit families we work have internet access, and the cyber cafes have all been closed. Once the children had downloaded their results and certificates they were able to approach higher education institutions to pursue the next stage of their learning.
The Centre also helped six children who were pursuing further academic opportunities to search online, create resumes and fill out application forms.
Sneha is 13 years old and says: “I came to the Computer Centre with the hope of making my resume by myself. My elder sister wanted to make her resume for her higher studies , but could not do it well. After joining the computer classes I have learned how to make my resume very well. I am very happy that I have learnt to do many things using the computer and I want all children to learn these things. It is very important for them when they reach higher studies or want to get a job. Children like me do not have enough support from parents to bear the fees of private computer centres. I shall ask my friends also to learn computers by joining the course!”.
Aneesh Kumar is 17 years old and from a very low-income family. He lives with his parents and two other siblings. Sadly he also had two other sisters who have passed away. His father had a polio attack some years back which left him disabled, so he now struggles to earn a living, but does earn a small income selling vegetables from a cart to keep the family going.
Aneesh realised that computer education could bring him better opportunities where he would be able to support his family too. He started coming to the Computer Centre in 2018 and after completing the course he found there was good demand for his computer skills, especially in making resumes, filling out forms, printing out results etc. He looked for a space near his house to rent and started a cybercafé which offered internet access and various other services. He was able to earn a good income through this and has been able to support his family in addition to the income from his father’s vegetable cart.
Aneesh is now studying a BA degree and is in his second year. He is able to support this higher education with what he earns from the cybercafe. Covid restrictions have meant the cybercafe has had to be closed for the last few months, but he plans to re-open as soon as the situation gets better.
It’s reported that 90% of the Indian population lags on digital literacy. In day to day life this has a huge impact on people’s ability to enter education, the workforce, or even apply for simple services.
Add this to the stifling discrimination faced by Dalit people, and it becomes a significant factor in keeping a community under the poverty line.
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