Inauguration of new RTC at Kalugumalai

IITM Pravartak and Asha started the sixth RTC at Kalugumalai in Thoothukudi district. The RTC was inaugurated on the 10th of Feb 2023.

IITM Pravartak and Asha are running 5 Rural Technology Centres, 4 in Thiruvallur Dist and one in Thoothukudi Dist. We have started the sixth RTC in Kalugumalai, Thoothukudi Dist in Feb 2023. This report covers the same.

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Background and Teacher Selection

Our RTCs have been functioning for 1 year at the first two centres (Kanakamma Chathram and Seethanjeri). The other RTCs have been functioning two from July 2022 (Poondi and Kannigaiper) and the Kayathar one from Oct 2022. We have started the RTCs close to the Geographies where Asha is already doing work as it provides for easy monitoring of the functioning of the RTC as well as provides us a pool of trained teachers to use for getting a good teacher for the RTC. We have been finding that the challenges at each RTC is unique in terms of the support provided at the school, travel arrangements for the children and the students, the number of children available in the source areas and also in terms of the ability of our teachers to execute the RTC curriculum at the school and centre.

Keep all these in mind, we chose Kalugumalai as the location for our next RTC. Asha is already supporting several schools in this vicinity including the primary school in Kalugumalai, schools in Karadikulam and several others a little further away. Further we have been training most of our computer teachers who teach in primary and middle schools on the more advanced concepts we expect them to teach at the RTCs.

Kalugumalai was also similar to Kayathar in that it was a small town situated in a largely rural area. There were several govt, govt aided and private schools in the area which can be feeder to our RTC. We decided to start out next RTC here with Abhirami and Vijayalakshmi as two teachers here.

Getting the RTC Ready

For our RTCs we typically need a hall that can comfortably seat 20 to 30 children, toilet facilities and a place close to the main road as well as to the school we are primarily serving. We were able to get a place that was about 0.75 Kms from GHSS Kalugumalai and right next to Nadar Girls HSS, a govt aided school for girls. While our teacher go to work in the GHSS Kalugumalai, both these schools act as the primary feeder schools for our RTC.

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Painting work, Electrical work, funitures and computers were arranged at the new office. We took possession of the office on Feb 3rd and got the office ready on Feb 7th. The students started coming to the RTC and classes started in an informal way from Feb 8th.

Reaching out to the Government Schools and Students

We had been in touch with the Govt. Higher Secondary School in Kalugumalai from even earlier. They had been keen for us to start an RTC and work with their school. We were able to quickly establish relations with the school and start our work even before the RTC was ready. The school gave us the auditorium which is a big room right at the entrance of the school for conducting the classes. On Feb 1st our teachers started going to the school. They are taking the 5 laptops in addition to their own 2 laptops to the school and back. As with most higher secondary schools, this school also had a Hi-Tech lab with 20 clients connected to a server. But besides this, they had only one computer. They have kept this also in the auditorium and allow our teachers to use this.

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Inauguration Function

The new RTC at Kayathar was inaugurated on the 10th of Feb 2023. Kalugumalai Town Panchayat President Mrs. Aruna Subramaniyam and the vice-president Mr. Subramaniam were the chief guests at the function. Mrs. Usha Ganesh, a Project Consultant at Pravartak also joined us. Asha was represented by Coordinator Mr. Rajaram and the steward for the Pearl project Mr. Bhaskar. Initially all the guests came to the RTC centre to cut the ribbon and light the Kuththu Vilakku.

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After that we all moved to GHSS Kalugumalai for the main function. The school asst HM welcomed us and participated in the function as the HM had to rush for a meeting. The chief guest Mr. Subramaniyam welcomed Asha and Pravartak and thanked us for starting a centre here. The school AHM Mr. Sundararajan also welcomed us and was looking forward to the students benefitting from this. Mrs. Usha Ganesh spoke of the importance of this initiative and of spreading the knowledge and benefit of technology to the rural areas. There was a good speech by one of the students at that school as well.

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RTC in Operation

The RTC continued its operation after the inauguration function. The number of children coming in is continuing to be very high. About 50 children are turning up every day. Here is a breakup of where the various children are coming from.

GHSS Kalugumalai (6th to 10th) – 103

Kammavar Girls HSS (6th to 9th) – 120

Other Aided Schools (6th to 8th) – 22

Private Schools (5th to 8th) – 33

College Students – 5

Almost all the children coming to the RTC are only coming for the digital literacy course for now as there are very few children coming from schools where they have already learnt digital literacy from Asha. There are some 5 such students coming from Karadikulam. We may start a small programming batch for them.

Our lead teacher from Thiruvallur Kumari along with another RTC teacher Nadhiya visited the RTCs in Kayathar and Kalugumalai. They could show the teachers in Kalugumalai what they need to do and also understand the level of the students coming to the RTCs.

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The RTC is off to a good start with the huge number of children coming in. We hope to capitalise on that to create a good centre for learning.

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