The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Holy cow! A COW that spouts English
- On track/career on wheels

Vijayawada, Nov. 7: This COW ruminates, but not on grass. And it is completely secular.

The Career On Wheels ' or COW in short ' is a mobile spoken English classroom for students and employees who want to improve their worth in the job market. It operates on the Machilipatnam-Vijayawada passenger every day.

As the suburban train, the lifeline of government and private sector workers as well as students, reaches Gudivada station at 7.20 in the morning, those eager for the crash course rush to the last of its 10 compartments.

A board with the acronym welcomes them. Very soon the COW is at work ' polishing and preparing the zealous as well as the hesitant. And thinking how to improve their diction.

For Sudhakar Rao, an intermediate student, the spoken English course could not have come at a better time. The 18-year-old from rural Andhra Pradesh dreams of becoming an infotech professional, but has not been able to clear the English tests in entrance exams for IT courses. His 'rural background' has proved a stumbling block every time. Now he hopes the course would help him overcome his 'accent'.

The project was conceived by the state commissionerate of employment and training in collaboration with Nagarjuna University which has designed a special syllabus.

'Instead of wasting time playing cards or eve teasing, students and lowly-paid employees in government and private companies have an opportunity to better their job prospects,' said commissioner B.V. Sudhakar.

The university would also conduct tests and give a certificate after three months.

The class has been a hit. Within three days of its launch, 187 people, including 30 women, enrolled. All are season-ticket holders between Machilipatnam and Vijayawada.

The course is free. Only exam fees have to be paid to get the certificate, said Soma Krishnamurthy, vice-president of Rotary Club (Central) of Vijayawada, which has liberally funded the project.

To be eligible, students have to produce season tickets and a certificate to show they have passed the tenth standard in regular schools or through correspondence, said Latha Bharadwaj, the spoken English teacher.

The 40-year-old takes a bus to Gudivada every morning to board her classroom where she is helped by an assistant. An audio system carries her clipped pronunciation to her pupils.

'I have students from 15 to 45 years, all studying in the same class,' she said, a touch of pride in her voice.

The Rotary Club will pick up her salary tab and other expenses. 'We are excited about the project though it has exceeded our target,' said Krishnamurthy.

The South Central Railway, too, played a crucial role by providing a compartment exclusively for the students. It was placed last so that it would not attract 'random passengers and disturb the classes', explained Hanuman Prasad, the railway's programme executive.

The railway has also permitted the use of a public address system to offset the noise. 'We have also provided support of the Railway Protection Force to assist in case of trouble from passengers,' Prasad added.

Inspired by the success of the course, Sudhakar said in a few days similar classes will be introduced on passenger trains between Mahboobnagar and Hyderabad and Ankapally and Visakhapatnam. The employment commissionerate also plans to introduce courses for tourist guides.

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