The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Computer skills free for street kids

Using the paintbrush programme to draw on the computer screen is fun, but for Ritu Das, it is an unbelievable opportunity. The 12-year-old girl, whose father is a cart-puller and mother a maid, lives in the Chetla lockgate slum and had always used only discarded pencils. Ritu and 149 others, from the slum and redlight areas, are now getting what they could never have dreamt — a training in computers for free.

The computer training centre for the under-privileged children, a joint project of Bengal Services Society (BSS) and Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is just two days old but has already triggered enthusiasm among the kids. “I never dreamt of using this machine. I want to sit and draw for the whole day,” said Rabi Biswas, 10, whose father is a labourer.

The centre, on Gopalnagar Road, in ward 82, was formally inaugurated by mayor Subrata Mukherjee on November 29. The building was originally a corporation school and the CMC has allowed BSS to run a free school there since July.

“Later, we requested the CMC to allow us to set up a free computer training centre for streetchildren and it agreed,” said Pradipta Kanungo, BSS general secretary. A leading computer company has donated nine PCs, which are used by 18 students per session. Classes are held six days a week for children between the age group of 10 and 14. Each session, for 45 minutes, will enable two children on each computer to learn the basic skills.

“Every student will be able to receive the training two days a week,” Kanungo said. Most of these children at the centre were school dropouts, as their parents could not afford their studies.

The children were delighted when the first demonstration was held on December 1. “We have started off with paintbrush to create interest among the children,” explained Tathagata Dutta, one of the trainers.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee hailed the concept and said the CMC was planning more such joint ventures to revive its schools. “There are many such CMC schools that are being shut down. We are planning to tie up with more voluntary organisations to revive these schools,” Mukherjee said. “There are around 15 such schools and if the NGOs are ready to follow our syllabus, then we can take up the revival plans,” he added.

The computer training institute has also agreed to award certificates to the children on completion of the course, according to BSS general secretary Kanungo.

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