English Access Microscholarship for 30 students

While the students will be learning English, the US consul general could be learning Bengali

By A Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 20.11.18, 5:05 AM
  • Updated 20.11.18, 5:05 AM
  • 2 mins read
US consul general Patricia Hoffman plays rugby with the boys and girls selected for the two-year English Access Microscholarship Program on the Maidan on Monday. Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

A group of boys and girls from economically disadvantaged families, many of them first-generation learners, have been selected for a global microscholarship initiative that aims to teach them English after school to enhance their educational opportunities and employability.

The new batch of the two-year English Access Microscholarship Program in Calcutta has 30 students from the Jungle Crows Foundation that has its roots in rugby as a tool for empowerment.

Launching this year’s programme on Monday, US consul general Patricia Hoffman interacted with the students at Crows Field on the Maidan and told them that they were now part of a worldwide network spanning 85 countries and about one lakh beneficiaries.

She hoped the programme would go a long way in strengthening the relationship between US and India.

“I would measure the success (of the programme) in different ways — of course improvement in English, but here many of them spoke about increasing their confidence level and leadership skills. The programme is not just about English skills but becoming a more integrated part of the community…. We would hope a lot of the skills would serve them well in the future. There are possibilities of other types of government exchange programmes that we have, and once they have the requisite English skills they may qualify for the additional programmes that we run,” Hoffman said.

The English Access Microscholarship Program is supported by the US state department and managed by the regional English language office at the US embassy in Delhi. In Calcutta, classes are held twice a week at the American Center over two years.

Paul Walsh, the founder of the Jungle Crows, said the programme would help instil “a certain discipline in the students”.

The age group is 13 to 20 and the students have been selected on the basis of having the same level of language skills. “The skill level is quite low, but if they are learning for two years it will be an intensive course and we are excited that they will make big steps,” Walsh said.

He felt the programme would help them develop not only in terms of language skills but also as young people. “It involves team building, research and activities. It is not just learning English but more of a holistic programme that helps them to develop as young people.”

Some of the students go to government-run schools and are looking forward to learning to communicate better after the two-year course. “There are times when we keep quiet because we cannot express ourselves in English. I hope this course will help me shed my inhibitions and communicate and explain myself in the English language,” said Najma Sheikh, a Class XII student.

While the students will be learning English, the US consul general could be learning Bengali.

“I would like to learn Bengali, and I have some names of tutors and have to interview some people and see when they might be available,”

said Hoffman, who has been in Calcutta for three months.