The Telegraph
Monday , March 24 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Smart lessons for slum kids, shiny teeth another plus

- Digital Literacy Mission meet invites expansion ideas from Tata Steel, XLRI; dental test & dresses turn on smiles

The joy of giving is unbridled, especially when the human chain keeps expanding.

To achieve this, crusaders of Digital Literacy Mission — an innovative learning network for poor children founded by some scientists of National Metallurgical Laboratory (NML) and city philanthropists in 2011 — along with local NGO Cause for Change organised a seminar on community classrooms for the bottom of the pyramid population at Bhalubasa Community Centre on Sunday.

Simply put, the people running the digital mission — also popularly known as DLM — will try to rope in more slum children under its wings.

How to achieve it was what faculty members of XLRI, Tata Steel executives, NGO representatives and DLM officials deliberated upon.

Host DLM asked NGOs to provide tutors, who, in turn could also bring students from their respective areas. Quality education apart, slum children will learn basic values, manners and etiquette for their holistic development.

“We organised this seminar so that we could get more ideas on how to expand our system. XLRI professors and Tata Steel officials promised us to chalk out a plan to make the project a grand success. We are ready to work with anyone who is willing to volunteer and spare some time for these children,” said Mita Tarafder, one of main crusaders of the project.

At present, there are 150 slum children, aged between six and 15, enrolled in the five DLM centres across the steel city. These children not only learn maths, science and English at the centres, but also get lessons in extracurricular activities such as dance and yoga.

The digital mission has in fact taken up dance — folk with a touch of Bollywood — as a tool to teach children social messages, entertainingly.

“These children are poor and they cannot grasp half of the things taught in the schools (mostly state-run) they go to. We groom these poor students beyond school and open them up to creative activities. The children have shown drastic improvement. They are fast learners,” said Pinky Singh, a tutor.

Serious discussions apart, the seminar had some genuine “say cheese” moments.

Children performed to a medley of Bollywood, tribal and folk songs and wowed the audience with synchronised steps. Then, they also underwent a free dental check-up. City-based dentist Md Zafar examined the children.

The best part of the event was saved for the last. All the 150-odd digital mission students received dresses from XLRI.

The children beamed. “Mereko ek skirt aur shirt mila. Ab hum isko pehen kar DLM class jayenge. (I got a skirt and a shirt to go with it. I will wear them to my DLM classes),” said Laila Kumari, an 11-year-old student from Telco.