Jeet is 12 years old and his mother is a sex-worker. Sunita’s father died four years ago and her mother is a maid. Champak has never been to school, while Sunita studied in a Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC)-run school for a year before she dropped out.
These children, and about 500 others like them, are going back to school in Chetla soon. Along with the history and mathematics lessons, computers, too, are part of the curriculum, thanks to a project implemented by the Bengal Services Society (BSS). IBM India and the CMC, too, are chipping in — the former is providing the computers and the latter is providing the school building on Gopalnagar Road.
“The BSS approached us with the proposal and we approved it,” said Firhad Hakim, councillor of ward 82. “This is unthinkable for the children of the area, and there is a lot of excitement,” he added. The children are between four and 15 and most of them have never been to school before.
The school promises to be very different. “Instead of the usual pattern of classes, the children will be divided into eight groups, according to their levels of learning,” said secretary of BSS Pradipta Kanungo. “Worksheets will be provided to these children to ascertain their learning levels, after which they are going to be divided into separate groups,” she added.
There will be seven teachers to start with, one of whom will teach the basics of computers to students. Talks were finalised with IBM India, which has promised to provide 11 personal computers. “IBM contributions target the areas of child and education,” an IBM spokesperson said over the telephone from Bangalore. The other community projects taken up by IBM were the setting up of the Gandhi Institute of Computer Education and Information and Technology in partnership with Bharatiya Bidya Bhavan in Mumbai, Delhi, Hazaribagh and Gopalganj.
BSS officials said they were in touch with a leading computer education institute of the city so that these children could get exposure to professional guidance. “We are holding discussions with this institute so that these children can be issued some certificate, which they can use later,” a BSS official said.