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Jamaican ‘miss’ to make English a hit
- Dropout tribal girls learn Queen’s tongue from exchange programme student

They may never get the chance to study in elite English-medium schools. But, they may speak English pretty well.

Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS), a rural development wing of the steel major, is working to make dropout tribal girls proficient in English.

Latoya Francis, a Jamaican student at the London School of Economics, who is currently working with TSRDS under Tata International Exchange Programme, is grooming tribal girls to improve their skills in the global language, instil confidence and pave their way back to school.

Latoya’s initiative is part of the bigger nine-month bridge course with TSRDS that makes them ready for school. English-speaking skills will be an added advantage.

The girls will be absorbed in the camp schools in Pipla and Noamundi, both run by TSRDS.

Each camp school has 100 girl students who will later go to mainstream schools, especially the state-run Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya residential cradles for girls.

For Latoya, this is a challenging, yet fun assignment.

“The bridge course is for nine months. I am developing a module that will make learning English easier for tribal girls. There will be fun activities through which they can learn the language. We hope their self-esteem rises once they learn English. They’ll also be better communicators,” Latoya said, adding she was “serious” about her task.

Biren Bhuta, the chief of corporate sustainability services at Tata Steel, said the bridge course project was a well-established one. “It helps dropout girls, from the ages of nine to 14, and hailing from poor homes prepare for mainstream schooling once more. We focus on community learning, grammar and language courses so that the children get used to reading the printed word,” he said.

He gave a thumbs up to Latoya’s English course. “The girls are devoid of exposure. Learning English will boost their confidence. Let’s see how it goes. If it works, we can even talk to the government to implement this programme with an aim to improve the communication skills of poor children,” he said.

This apart, TSRDS is also working with Eklavya, an NGO in Bhopal, to train teachers coaching science to tribal students. Way to go!

Do you have a message for Latoya? Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com