Dabar 21st November



21st November 2014

Many of you will know already that for about two months the  Chhau teachers and musicians at our primary school have also been training some of the boys at the Central School near to our village. Chhau dance was completely new to these boys when they started. Having learned a lot in a very short time they bravely decided to travel to Nalanda in Bihar to participate in a competition being held there.

There were 20 boys plus the teachers, musicians and other PA Foundation staff in the party. They left Purulia Railway Station on the 13th of November and arrived the next day in Bihar. On the 15th they performed before a huge and enthusiastic crowd of well known and respected dignitaries, teachers, children and other members of the public.

Sixteen other teams from three States performed on the same stage. We are delighted to tell you that the Nabodaya School team came first in this competition. This means that they will now travel to Delhi for a national competition. If they also come first in this competition then they will be invited to go on a tour in Japan. So hats off to our teachers and the students at INV. This a proud day for them, for our teachers and musicians and for PA Foundation.



A new Boys Hostel

Prabhat Alloi Foundation began their children’s hostel with seven children, three girls and four boys. All of them are growing up very quickly now. At present we have two rooms, one for the boys and one for the girls. But now as they are growing older we need to give them more living space. Also, it sometimes happens that boys will enter the girls’ room without knocking, which is sometimes embarrassing to both the boys and the girls. This is just one example of the inevitable problems everyone faces as young people grow up.

For these reasons we are building a new, separate hostel for the boys next door to the library. We will make it large enough to accommodate more than four boys because other local boys have asked for accommodation. Things are too crowded in their own homes so it is difficult to study. The solution is that they can sleep at the new hostel but continue to eat their meals at home with their families. They will then have much more space to work on their studies at the library. We have started to buy the bricks and other materials we need and are actively seeking additional funding for this urgent project.


Preparing the Land for Onion and Potatoes

This year we had very much less rain than usual during the monsoon season and as a result our villagers’ harvests have been very poor. So we are doing our part by cultivating vegetables in the school garden in those parts where the soil is good. We tilled and prepared the soil and have now planted potatoes and onions.


Painting the Guest House

We are using the walls of the school buildings as a place to display traditional local paintings. The first step is to decorate the walls of the guest house..

Sanjay Kumar Mahato



Dabar 29th October Kali Puja

Dabar 29th October Kali Puja

Maa Kali is the goddess who is the symbol of power (Sakti). Kali Puja honours her and this day is celebrated all over India.

This festival is also know as Diwali or the Festival of Light. For this occasion we all try to decorate our houses with colorful lights and candles. The symbolic meaning of this day is that we are lighting up our hearts with the good and removing the bad, which brings darkness to our hearts.

In Purulia, Bankura and Midnapur Districts the Kudmi people celebrate this festival as Bandna Festival. This festival honours our domestic animals, especially the cow, bull and buffalo. The bull is important to our cultivation, the cows provide us with milk and the buffalo are a beast of burden. So we show them our gratitude on this day. We clean the cattle with mud and cow dung and paint traditional drawings on the ground. After that we clean all the animals, washing their feet with oil and putting a crown made out of paddy on their heads.

This festival lasts six day. On the last day we play a game with the bulls called “Garu Khuta”. There is a myth which lies behind this festival. The Lord Shiva is also called Pashupati, which means King of all animals. At a particular point in time he came to earth in order to find out whether animals were being treated well. For this reason we give special treatment to all our domestic animals, adorning the cattle and our houses for the occasion.


In the period between these Puja, the Bengali people also celebrate Bhai Fota, which honours the special relationship that exists between between sisters and brothers. On this occasion a sister will wish long life to her brothers and her brothers in turn will promise to take care of her.

Our school started again last Monday. At last! This time, which is full of holidays and festivals, starts every year at the beginning of the month of October and will still go on until the middle of November. Because of this life for all of us has lost its normal rhythm. It will take a while to get back into the flow.


Dabar News 13th October

 Durga Puja

Over the last week we have been celebrating Durga Puja. This is the biggest festival of the year and celebrated all over India. All the schools, including our own, are closed and so are most businesses, colleges, banks and government offices.

Our first task at Prabhatalloi was to give new clothes to our school children. The girls get dresses and the boys get shirts. They were very happy to get their new clothes.

Some of us also took the opportunity to visit the 700 year old palace of Kashipur, the last King of Rahr before Independence. It is only open to visitors during the days of Durga Puja.

In the days leading up to Durga Puja towns all over India put up decorations with colourful lights and a variety of Pandals. Then, for four evenings the streets are crowded with people coming to celebrate and admire the creations.

You may remember that our Guest House has a pillar of brick in the centre of the room which a man sculpted into the shape of a tree. We were pleased to learn this same sculptor won first prize for the sculptures he made at a Pandal in Purulia Town. These shapes and figures are carved out of paddy dust.

So what is the story behind Durga Puja? We would like to tell our overseas friends this story. Durga is a female goddess. In our spiritual books she appears as many different images. She is most often worshiped as the symbol of Sakti, meaning power. The story of her creation is that Mahisasur, the King of Evil and Darkness, decided to begin a long meditation in order to please the god Brahma, who is known as the creator of the world. As a reward for his devotion and the sincerity of his meditation Brahma granted him a blessing that no man would ever kill him in battle. It seemed that he would be immortal and because of this blessing Mahisasur became very powerful.

He conquered heaven and earth. Evil defeated Good and Darkness began to spread over the whole world. To save world, the other gods gathered together and combined their powers to create a beautiful and strong woman called Durga. They had realized that only a woman could now defeat Mahisasur in battle. Each god armed the new goddess a different weapon. With her strength and weapons Durga confronted Mahisasur, overpowered him and slew him. Darkness was thus defeated and the world was saved.





Dabar News 1st October

Past, Present and Future with Prabhatalloi Foundation

In this posting we would like to pay tribute to our partners and well wishers. Four years ago Prabhatalloi Foundation started this journey thanks to the inspiration and helping hands of Tinku, who lives here in Dabar, and Shivanii, who is from Australia. We have experienced many good moments during this time, although of course we accept there will always be difficulties or bad news from time to time. But we have achieved a great deal and this is due to the support, blessings and good wishes of the many people who have traveled this journey with us.

Sometime it’s hard to bring back memories but fortunately we have kept many images which help us to remember. So we give thanks to our well wishers with a photographic history of where we have been, then and now, and after that something of our hopes and plans for the future

Building the Physical Infrastructure

Constructing the School Buildings, the Office & Medical Centre


The Land at the Beginning

Blessing the Land

Planting Trees and Vegetables

At the  beginning


The Pond and Drinking Water Provision

The Storm Damage and Reconstruction

The Classrooms at the Beginning




The Apex Library

At the  beginning


The Computer Training Campaign

At the Beginning


The Guest House

Some Special Moments
The Children in the Hostel growing up

At the  beginning


The Picnic at the River

Some other moments


Self Help Group

Medical Centre

At the  beginning


Tailoring Class

At the  beginning


Leprosy Village

Snake Village

The Future

From the beginning we have been trying to make the Foundation more and more self sufficient. We have several projects which do generate income, including the Prosthetics shop, Tailoring and Banking/Micro Finance. But these projects do not produce sufficient income to create a surplus.  And furthermore, any extra money earned after paying for raw materials is distributed in the form of workers payments, to pay for utilities and as rent for the office and shop. In any event the main purpose of these projects is one of social welfare. So we cannot and should not expect to earn substantial income from them. However, we are very pleased that they almost pay their way at present.

We have started to take on outsourcing work from other NGOs, local companies and individuals.  Because the aim of this work is primarily to earn funds for the Foundation, we will be taking a business approach to costing and pricing. Shanta, Chaina, Madhab and Mitu have finished training in Tally, which is the most widely used bookkeeping software in India. Starting next month, we will use this package for our own accounts. We will also start our first fee earning jobs for local organisations. There is substantial demand for people with skill in this field and we are very optimistic of continuing to find more fee paying customers and earning good income.

Our Chhau dance teachers are now also training boys at a new local boarding school, which gives them extra income, and the new young Chhau dancers are enjoying the classes and improving very quickly. And after four years, the boys training at our own Chhau Dance class have progressed very well and have now started to perform for the public. Their first performances have been very well received. To progress in the short term, however, we do need to find funds to buy their costumes. props and masks. In fact we already had to turn down two engagements to perform because we have not yet found the money for this. But Chhau Dance is very popular and there are regular opportunities to perform. We expect this to be a good income earner for the artists, the boys and Prabhatalloi Foundation.

Finally, as to the Computer Training Campaign, the classes are still well attended after the first two months. We now plan to offer some additional specialist training in bookkeeping software, word processing, excel and other packages depending on where the interests each individual student lie. There looks to be work and jobs available locally with companies here in Purulia  to the young people once they have completed this first six month session. When this happens it will be a day for celebration here, a big step forward, and we hope you too will be very proud.

Dabar News 22nd September

 Three Puja in one Day

On 17th September we celebrated three festivals, or Pujas, in one day. They are called Chata Parab, the worship of Biswakarma and Jita Puja.

Chata Parab  is the Umbrella Festival. The tribal kings of the Purulia region began celebrating it during the Mongol period in India. The story behind this Puja is that the Mongols attacked us many times, but failed at every attempt because the tribal soldiers employed secret fighting techniques and on account of their great courage. When it became clear that the Mongols had finally given up trying to defeat us, all the tribes decided to mark this day as a remembrance of their collective and unified victory. This occasion of celebration has continued to this day. Today, just as did the tribal kings, families hoist an umbrella. The symbolic meaning is that, when the need occurs, all tribals can join together under the umbrella of one single king.

Another celebration on the 17th is the worship Biswakarma, god of engineering. All types of machinery are worshiped. For example, we all honour our motor vehicles by washing them, be they of the four or two wheeled variety.

And finally, on this day the women also celebrate Jita. This event is  concerned with agriculture and seeds. We believe the women of Raha discovered the way seeds germinate and used this knowledge to develop the techniques we now use for seeding paddies. This day gives the women an opportunity to mark their achievement and celebrate it. They also pray for the future of their children, that it will be a good and healthy one.

This is the meaning of Jita to people today. The ancient spiritual meaning underlying the ritual is concerned with the creation of life. The leaves are in the shape of a woman’s vagina and represented fertility. Pieces of cucumber placed on each leaf represent the man’s penis and the power of nature.

 Biswakarma, god of engineering, is worshiped on this day all over India. Jita Puja and Chata Parab are observed here in the area which includes Purulia and in ancient times comprised the former Raha Kingdom. This area is now split into parts of four States: West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and a small part of Jharkhand. We now look forward to the first week of October, to the biggest festival of them all: Dhurga Puja.

Dabar News 15th September

Kudmali Language Conference

Arranged by Prabhatalloi Foundation

Many will agree that language is an essential part of any people’s cultural identity. So naturally we ourselves would like to help promote our own cultural heritage and pass it on to future generations. With these ideas in mind,  PA Foundation last year organized a seminar on languages at the new Sidho Kanho University here in Purulia.

There were many excellent contributions. Not least among them, Kiriti Mahato, who is President of PA Foundation, discussed his new book.  Kiriti is a celebrated Jhumur singer in his own right. He also writes extensively about the area’s cultural heritage, especially its music and poetry, and campaigns on its behalf.  Afterwards, with the University’s help, we gathered together all the submissions that had been presented in the form of a book, edited by Kiriti, called Jhumur Loka Jiboner Sandhan.

Now, a year later, this collection of papers has been published. So last  Sunday, 7th September, we hosted a conference to mark the occasion. It was held here in Dabar on our School Campus using the new Guest House as a conference room. The focus of the discussions was on the Kudmali language and the ways we could help to promote it.

The programme started at 11am and continued to 3pm. It was attended by poets, singers, academics and reporters from all over West Bengal and neighbouring States. The young, award winning poet Avhimunya Mahato read from his own poems. He has just received the Yuba Sahitya Academy Award for his book Mati (meaning Soil).

Several other artists read from their own poetry and others sang Jhumur songs, to the great pleasure of all present.

But mainly the discussions centred around exploring ways we could save our aboriginal  and tribal languages, Kudmali in particular. Dr NG Dutta (Head of the Department of Bengali at Sidhu Kanho University) and Dr Binapani Mahato offered their valued advice.

We came to agreement on three main proposals:

*We need to continue to publish books written in Kudmali and make them easily available to young people.

*We should encourage and assist universities to include the study  of Kudmali both as a part of the curriculum and as an independent field of study in its own right.

*We should lobby the Government to create jobs to cater for students passing out after studying these languages

It really was a splendid day. The delegates were pleased to meet up again and very much appreciated the facilities we provided. And, for our part, we at PA Foundation are thrilled that it went so well. We now plan to host a variety of future events here in Dabar.

The Rahr Belt, Jhumur Song, Chhau Dance, and the Kudmali Language

These are four pillars of our culture. Purulia was the capital city in what has historically been called the Rahr Belt. It has always been mainly tribal and aboriginal people who live here. The culture is an ancient one, over four thousand years old, predating the Sidhu civilization. Because of its geographical and natural blessings this land has been very rich both economically and also in terms of language, culture and trade. The soil was very fertile and the land was covered by dense, productive forest. It was considered a golden land then. People here became very rich through trade, they even maintained trade relations with the Mayan Aztecs and the Subdhu civilisation. On account of this prosperity, outsiders had always been coming to Rahr. Some came as enemies to attack and plunder, some in friendship to trade and others seeking to convert the local people to their own religion.

But now with the passage of time the soil of the land has lost its fertility and the forests have been cleared. The rivers have run dry because now the rainfall is neither sufficient nor reliable. In line with the decline of our physical environment, our culture has begun loosing its vibrancy and, with this, our languages are now at risk of disappearing. For Purulia the word existence has become synonymous with cultural survival.

The Jhumur song tradition is as old as the culture itself. Although it is a genre in its own right it also strongly influences other song forms and permeates the dance culture.

Chhau Dance uses Jhumur as its musical backdrop. Every performance begins with a Jhumur incantation to Ganash. There are three forms of Chhau. The oldest form of this martial dance is the Purulia (or Manbhum) Chhau. The origins of this martial dance are uncertain, lost in the long passage of time, but it is still very much in the blood of people here today. The choreography depicts episodes from the much loved legends recounted in the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The Mayurbanj and Seraikila forms of Chhau evolved later, during the period of British rule. In both cases a Maharaja first sponsored the dance and then later changed it by introducing classical dance elements that catered to the sophisticated tastes of its royal patrons and their guests.

Today the movements and costumes of Seraikila Chhau still reflect this heritage closely. We took these photographs in the grounds of the royal palace where it was first created and performed.

By contrast, the local villagers performing Mayarbanj Chhau are still developing their own new and original choreography. Their themes are about everyday life and chores and the natural world around them.  Some of the images below are from a Peacock Dance and a Snake Charmer Dance which were created for Robert when he visited to record for his research paper in 2007.

Kurmali is the most widely spoken of the five main aboriginal and tribal languages here. Ranking them based on what proportion of the population use each language, they are:   Kudmali  50%, Santali 25% , Mundari 10%, Kueuk  8% and Ho/Kharia 2%. The rest use Bengali as their main language in daily use. None of these languages has a written alphabet or script of its own; they are purely spoken languages. What is now being written down in these languages borrows from Hindi or Bengali script to give a phonetic rendering of what is being said or sung.

Clearly many still speak or at least understand these very ancient languages today. Yet they are all at risk of disappearing very soon, in the next few generations even, because the speakers are overwhelmingly adults. Children are not mastering these languages in schools but rather concentrating on Bengali, Hindi and, as is the case all over the world, English. Things are made more difficult because the former Rahr Kingdom is no longer a single entity. After Independence the area was split into parts which came under the political jurisdiction of three different States. As a consequence the population in each part came to belong to a marginalised minority culture in the State they were allocated to. In the case of Kudmali, its disappearance would mean the end of a language believed to be 4,000 years old.

However, many here do in fact appreciate the importance of Kudmali to our cultural heritage and identity. PA Foundation has helped to finance a small office in Purulia Town just a few doors down from our own. Here artists and writers committed to promoting the language can meet to socialise, plan and work. From there, they are now publishing a weekly newspaper in Kudmali language. In doing this some of them have become expert in desktop publishing so they are also able to prepare texts for subsequent publication in the form of books and pamphlets.


Dabar News 4th September

Our Performance of Chhou Dance in the Ajodhya Hills

We have been training the boys in our Chhou Dance class for about four years now. They really have developed well and they are now ready to perform for the public. In fact last Saturday they gave their first performance as a team. They were invited to an annual conference for the most senior officers of the All India Postal Service. It was held in the Ajodhya Hills, in an area near Purulia which is very much an important part of our heritage.

The programme took place on 30th August at 7pm. We started out early from Dabar, at 1pm, in order to give the boys a chance to see the Hills and the views of the surrounding countryside. The boys had never visited there before so the trip was an exciting excursion for them.

On the way we drove through a number of villages. As we climbed up the hill in our cars we passed by many women carrying wood that they had cut and gathered in the forests above. They have traditionally carried such very heavy loads long distances over unpaved roads. The fact that the government is improving the roads to improve access for visitors and tourists makes their work only a little easier. So we also encountered mechanical diggers and gangs of labourers on the way, as well as local people taking their livestock to graze.

We visited the impressive new dam, which is the centre piece of a huge hydroelectric power project financed by the Japanese Government. Although the new source of power is welcome, over one hundred thousand trees were destroyed in building it, which affected the local climate as well as the terrain. And of course vast areas were flooded. The changes ended the way of life for a great  many of the tribes, which was based on hunting, because the animals on which they depended could not sustain their existence in the new environment.

We found this charming local post office at the top of the hill. It is our nomination for the eighth wonder of the world!

The Chhou Dance performance took place in front of the beautiful new tourist facilities building. There is always a lot of preparation work to do. One of the modern developments in Chhou is that microphones and amplification are now used for the singing. And electric lighting has replaced torches to illuminate the proceedings, which as a rule have always taken place at night.

The dancing started promptly at 7pm after all the important guests had been seated. The performances always begin with Uran Baina, which serves as notice to anyone nearby that the dancing is about to start and is a general invitation to come and enjoy it. Chhou Dance is very much in the blood of the local people. And the officials were a knowledgeable and appreciative audience, breaking out in applause on a number of occasions.


At the end of the performance the audience came forward to congratulate the boys. Then afterwards we all went off for a dinner at a local restaurant.

More About the Ajodhya Hills

The Ajodhya Hills have an important place in the cultural history of our land. According to legend, while Ramachandra was travelling through the forests in fulfilment of his vow, he lived with Lakhan and Sita atop the highest of these Hills.

There are 360 tribal villages in the Hills. In earlier days, yet still within living memory, the land had been covered by dense forest. The dense forest meant that the tribes in the Hills were isolated from each other. Furthermore the Hills were inaccessible to the outside world because of the steep slopes and deep ravines. There had never been any reliable roads into the Hills. The first passable road was built shortly after Independence by the Lutherian Christian Agency, who also built a hospital as part of their assistance and development programmes. This remoteness and inaccessibility lead to a great diversity of culture among the individual tribes. Yet despite their differences, all of the tribes have been coming together every year to celebrate a hunting festival.

But now, in the last few decades, we have seen a continuing deforestation all over our area and roads have been improved as part of the wish to introduce the benefits of modern development. The Hills’ environment was particularly affected when a new hydroelectric system was built because many thousands of trees were felled and massive tracts of land were flooded. As a result most of the large animals which had been hunted for sustenance have disappeared because the changed environment could not sustain them. The tribes’ culture based on hunting could no longer be sustained.

Interestingly, the hunting festival takes place on the birthday of Lord Buddha, founder of the Buddhist religion. We all know of Buddha’s teachings against violence, killing and bloodshed. So it is natural to ask why the tribals should decide to arrange the hunting festival on that particular day. The reason is that Buddha came to the hills with intention of converting the people there from their tribal religions to Buddhism. In order to avoid being converted and as a way of resisting the inroads of Buddhism they arranged the festival for this day. This traditional celebration still takes place but now it has become an opportunity for members of surviving tribes to meet, socialize and dine together.

Dabar News 18th August

18th August 2014

Hello again to our well wishers and friends. I have a number of things to tell you about in this Post:

*Ceremonies marking India Independence Day
*Our most important festival: Manasha (Snake) Puja
*A Chhou Dance Workshop held at Nabodaya Central School
*Computer Class, Our First Practical Session

India Independence Day

This is an important event in Dabar Village, in Purulia District and all over India. We held our own flag raising ceremony at the school after class ended for the day. Below you can see photos of our event and also a similar one taking place at the Nabodaya Central School, a nearby boarding school for boys and girls.

Manasha Puja

You may already know that snakes have an important place in the cultural and spiritual life of this area. Manasha Puja honours the Snake Goddess, Ma Manasha. It takes place on 17th August and in fact is Purulia’s most important festival.

Nearly every home observes it by sacrificing a duck in the evening which is meant to be eaten on the following day. Having the meat is an important spiritual ritual which also has a sound basis in medical science. Typically the work of planting the year’s harvest will finish on about 15th August. In the weeks running up to this date almost everybody, both men and women, will be working the fields, often in deep mud. Unfortunately, while they are doing this, a particular type of worm enters their bodies through the instep of the foot and eventually lodges in the stomach. People eat the duck because its meat kills these worms. It also acts as an effective medicine against fever, which is very common now and at other times of the year when weather patterns are changing.

Computer Class

We held our first practical sessions last week. We felt they ran to a high standard. The children very much enjoyed the tasks we assigned to them. They were very excited and pleased finally to be able to start working with computers.

The photographs should show this. Although the classes are directed at young people in Year 10, we also have some adults coming to the Computer Workshop to learn. Also, above and below you can see photos of Shanta giving a demonstration to some young girls after their sewing class last Sunday. In a few years they can enroll in the course too.

In the short term, our next aim is to find some money to install a practical WiFi link. It would be very helpful and important in the later months of the Course. And in the medium term it would make it possible to take up opportunities for computer-based outsourcing work that we could carry out in the village.

Chhou Dance Work at Nabodaya Central School

An important aim of Prabhatalloi is to preserve and promote the local performing arts, such as Chhou Dance, Jawa and Karam, and indigenous languages such as Kudmali which are under threat from otherwise welcome development and mass media.

This includes local dance, song and instrumental music. One particular thing the Foundation did early on was to establish a school to give free lessons in Chhou Dance to boys and young men. This is still running well. There are six artist instructors and they meet every Sunday for training.

After hearing of the classes and seeing some of their occasional performances, the staff at the Nabodaya Central School (named after Jahar Nabodaya Vidyalia), a very highly respected local boarding school for boys and girls, asked our teachers to come and run a workshop for some of their own boys. Forty of their boys are   training with them for four hours a day over a fifteen day period. It has been a great success. It is easy to imagine that these boys will wish to continue their training and others will want to join them.

Best wishes to you all and thank you for all your support and encouragement.

Sanjay Kumar Mahato

Dabar News 2nd August

 Computer Campaign

In our last blog I told you about our ideas for providing computer training to school leavers and other young people here. In rural villages they have much less access to computers than those who live in town and so are at a great disadvantage when trying to start out in a job. We found that our young people strongly believe such a course would help them.  We too very much believe that this training is important and that the students will have much better prospects, directly or indirectly, after they will have completed such a course. And we hope to provide this course with the continued help of all our friends, supporters and well wishers. We are calling this project our Computer Campaign.

Building the Physical Infrastructure

Of course funding is always an essential. We have applied for funding but we were really pressed for time and it was important to provide a course soon so as to cater for the great enthusiasm among the students.  So we had to reconsider what to do in the short term.

 Delivering and Installing the Equipment

Fortunately, Robert Lush, who is one of my best friends and who is staying here now, could also appreciate the enthusiasm and the energy of the villagers for this project. So he has donated five computers and the necessary funds to pay the salaries for the first six month course.  So we have today, 1st August, been able to begin this training course.

Registering the New Students

One reason Robert is here in West Bengal is to continue his recording and research into local culture and language, which is under threat due to development, deforestation and the influence of satellite media. It is very important that we now preserve as much as possible of our heritage. It will very soon be too late to record our past. He is also working with us to archive the great amount of material we have already recorded. He has offered to divert the funds he is providing for his research project to enable our Computer Campaign to make an early start.  Kudos to Robert!

But we still need to consider long term funding requirements. We need to focus on the money that will be required to pay ongoing salaries, maintenance and other running costs.

A Test Run to Make Sure Everything works
 Our First Day of Class!

And in fact today we ran our first class, which concentrated on theory. The practical sessions start next Tuesday. We have enrolled 63 students, 33 girls and 30 boys. Rather than write too much now, we will show you some of the photographs we took, which I hope speak for themselves. I hope you can see how excited we are about this project.

There is a lot of work to do over the next 6 months to ensure this course continues to be a success. But so far so good!
Many thanks to you all for your continuing support and interest!


Dabar News 21st July

21st July 2014

Computer Training Project

One day recently we were chatting at a local café where, in addition to drinks and snacks, you can even buy a little petrol in an emergency. We were talking with some young people and discussing technology and modern science. One point in particular that came out was the important role that computers and the internet play these days and how the new technology is very much more accessible in the main towns than in the villages.

In the villages very few people have a computer whereas in the towns most people have a computer at home and they will have started becoming familiar with the new technology in their childhood. Young people in the villages miss out on this opportunity and this very much puts them at a disadvantage when they are looking for jobs. In more and more offices it is now essential to have computer skills in order even to be considered for employment. Our aim is to give our young people the skills they need better to compete in today’s job market.

We had a long discussion while I was there. I was very much struck by what had been said and discussed it afterwards with PA Foundation members and staff.

We surveyed the young people in local villages, applying the principles of the Ten Seeds Programme, and learned of many of their concerns regarding the future. Local young people felt that urban boys and girls were better able to advance because they already had training, knowledge and experience of computers. They also were at a disadvantage financially. In the villages many families live below the poverty line and it would be out of the question to be able to  afford computer training for their sons and daughters.

As a result we decided to include Free Computer Training as one of our major project goals for 2014. This meant we needed to draw up a proposal with an estimated budget,  to set up the necessary physical infrastructure, to select experienced teachers, to design a syllabus and so on.

And, not least, we had to begin a search for funding. Our young people are very enthusiastic and have kept on asking when they could start their training. But we needed to find at least part of the funding to make a start.

Some of  you may know of Robert Lush, who has been a very good supporter, friend and guide to us for a long time. He is staying with me here in Dabar and the young people often discuss these issues of training with him too. He is here working with some of my other colleagues on a long term project to archive the film we made of our traditional song and dance and interviews with accomplished local artists.

Robert is financing this major research project. However, recognising how important this computer training is, we have decided to divert some of the money earmarked for the archiving project so that we can start the computer training project now.

Everybody here is very excited about this project. The first offering of the course will last six months, with classes on three days a week, and cater for 30 boys and 30 girls. Above you can see some of printed advertisements we posted in nearby villages with information about the course, the admission dates and other details.  Below you see the new students registering. The young people are eager to get started. On the very  first day, twenty boys and fifteen girls came forward to register and we have already now nearly reached our quota of sixty.

So this month we are making preparations to start teaching and training at the beginning of August. We have engaged a professional computer teacher. We have renovated, repainted and installed new power points in the room at the school which we are converting into our computer training centre. We have bought four computers with tables and twenty stools. Thanks again to Robert for his help getting this very worthwhile project underway.

So now that we have managed to purchase and arrange the physical infrastructure requirements, we need to fund the salaries to be paid to the theory teacher and  supervisors for the practical sessions, plus maintenance and running costs. We estimate the amount required for the first year to be around A$3,600. Broken down in rupees this is:

54,000 = Theory teacher 4,500 x 12 months
84,000 = Practical teachers 3,500 x 2 teachers x 12 months
24,000 = Computer lab attendant 2,000 x 12 months
14,400 = Electricity bill 1,200 x 12 months
  6,000 = Computer maintenance 1,500 x 4 quarters
Total 182,400 Rupees or about A$ 3,600

We have now put a proposal forward to PAI Australia. Robyn Ramsay suggested we also make representations through her to Apex Club Maleny, who sponsored the library which has become such an important part of our community projects. Unfortunately our timing was bad because Robyn then had to be out of station for three months. Ideally we would  waited for her return before we tried to progress but we are trying to make a start now because we do not want to risk dampening our students’ enthusiasm.

Those participting will  get a real boost to their employment prospects. We see it as helping them along on a path to greater self reliance and independence.