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'A ray of hope for a little girl’s dream to be one amongst equals'

In 2007, Intel Learn program was being implemented in 20 Alternative Innovative Education centers of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, in Chandigarh. 20 volunteers from AIE were trained on the ‘Technology and Community’ curriculum which teaches technology and Internet search skills. Simultaneously, using a project-based approach, the curriculum's activities and projects demonstrate to learners how technology can contribute to and help improve their communities. One of the implementing centers for ILP is the AIE centre in Govt. Model Sr. Sec School Sector-38, Chandigarh. The school is located near Dadumajra village, a rural migrant colony consisting of labourers who had migrated from states like Bihar and UP.

Anita, an 11 year old girl, belonging to the migrating class from the state of Bihar, was a school dropout. Sh. Putti Lal Anita’s father, a labourer working in Dadumajra village, could not support his daughter’s education with his meager income, so he pulled her out of school. But there was also another reason – Anita could not speak to anyone and she could not hear; she was deaf and dumb. Her incapability to speak and hear made her lose interest in education and she started working in the slum area where she was living.

Though she stopped going to school, she could not stop her dreams – as she drew circles in the mud, she would dream of drawing on paper; she would dream of a world where she could communicate freely, where she could see the wonders of the world and where she could be one amongst equals.

One day, she spotted the AIE centre didi talking animatedly to a group of children. The children were very excited and Anita was keen to know what this was all about. But she could not hear or understand what the didi was talking about. She tried reading her lips but the didi was speaking too fast and Anita found it difficult to keep pace. Nevertheless, she could pick up some words like school, dreams, free, computer and education. The didi was one of the field animators of a nearby AIE center, and she was in Anita’s village to talk about the Intel Learn Program and to convince parents and children to enroll in the nearby AIE centre.

Anita wanted to know more about it. With help from some of her friends, she understood what the didi was talking about. She ran home and managed to convince her parents to enroll her in the nearby AIE centre so that she could play with computers there. Little did she know that her desire to undergo the Intel Learn Program would bring about such a BIG change in her life.

At this center Anita found it very challenging to study, as children laughed at her inefficiency making her very uncomfortable. The AIE volunteer teacher for Intel Learn Program, Mr. Madan Lal, was convinced about the potential of ILP in tapping the innate qualities of children. When Anita joined the centre, Mr. Madan Lal could see that she was very uncomfortable. But he also noticed that she would become very happy and excited whenever she used computers to create ILP projects.  Slowly and surely, Anita began understanding the instructions and with Mr. Lal’s patient guidance, she started writing her name and other words with the help of a computer.

When she typed on the keyboard, it was as if she was in a whole new world. She realized that she could use computers as a medium to express her views and ideas. She was not too literate yet, so she used graphics to express her opinion - she would draw a smiling face when she was happy and a sad face when she was upset. With her enthusiasm, she was soon ahead of the class in learning new skills on the computer. The other children stopped making fun of her and started respecting her. Anita soon had a few friends to call her own.

In addition to technological skills, presentation and communication skills and collaboration skills, Intel Learn Program gave Anita the confidence to believe in her dreams

Gradually Anita could draw, paint, write, calculate and prepare presentations using computers – she could now communicate with the world using her fingertips. The other subject teachers were surprised to notice the change in Anita. Anita, who was totally disinterested in academics, slowly started performing well in studies and also started mingling with other children. She had realized that the world of education was interesting after all – in this world she could draw her dream house and make a picture of her family, she could even take a printout of the family picture and share it with her parents. By the time, Anita completed the ILP training; she had started loving the idea of going back to school.   

In 2008, Anita enrolled herself in Class II of a mainstream school, where she attends classes with other regular students and is also performing well in studies.

ILP has been instrumental in encouraging Anita to believe in herself and has encouraged her to enroll for higher education in a formal school. Her parents are proud of their daughter who has successfully surmounted her physical limitations to be at par with the other students in school. They have also begun dreaming of a bright future for Anita.