XLRI students teach laptop basics to students from slums at Dhatkidih in Jamshedpur. Telegraph picture
Itís an experience watching eight-year-old Sumanti Kumari, a resident of an Agrico slum in Jamshedpur and a third grader of Kerala Public Project School, with a laptop.
She beams: ďItís like we see in films. Ismein game khelte hain aur picture dekhte hain (You play virtual games and watch movies).Ē Then she touches its keyboard and the LCD display with reverence.
Class X student Pooja Kumari of Harijan School, Bhalubasa, is no less excited.
Digital Literacy Mission, an innovative learning network for poor children founded by some scientists of National Metallurgical Laboratory and city philanthropists in 2011, started giving Sunday computer lessons from August 4, thanks to 11 XLRI student-volunteers.
For the Mission, itís a step closer to its ultimate aim ó developing an online network with virtual study materials for needy students to access.
Itís also a dream come true for some 150 slum children from ages seven to 16 who never dreamt of seeing a laptop outside TV or movies. Every Sunday, at any of the three Mission centres at Bhalubasa, Dhatkidih and Agrico, they learn using laptops.
For XL students, itís no less of a surprise.
ďItís a digital, wired world we live in. In affluent or middle class homes, kids are tech-savvy and hands-on because they get to use computers at school, they use laptops belonging to parents. Here, slum children just donít have access to computers. They see it as some kind of magic,Ē said Manish Bindrani, a first-year XLRI business management student and DLM computer mentor at its Dhatkidih hub.
He added language posed a problem.
ďThese children donít go to English-medium schools. So though they are smart, learning commands is a little tricky,Ē Manish said.
So XLRI students are starting with bare basics ó explaining what a computer is, its parts, how it runs on electricity plugged directly or stored in the charger. Then, the B-school students let children get used to a laptopís touch and feel. As funds are precious, XLRI students bring their own laptops and supervise children when they use it.
ďRight now, we supplement the school education of needy children with quality tuitions free of cost, while computer education has been launched, courtesy XLRI students, every Sunday. We hope to churn out computer-literate students in due course,Ē said Aparna Singh, the Agrico centre co-ordinator for the Mission.
ďWeíre trying to make these needy children on a par with those in elite schools,Ē Manish said. The XLRI students are also trying to tap faculty members to get more volunteers.
XLRI already runs a basic computer literacy programme on campus where its students teach computers to underprivileged high school students.
How can the literacy mission fund low-cost computers for needy children?