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Media Labs Asia brings education to the doorsteps of tribals

Rayana Pandey  |  New Delhi 

Nagina, a 15 year old girl belonging to the nomadic tribe -Magar Sanghvi in Maharashtra-has completed her vocational training at a nearby Media Labs Asia centre and has returned to teach the same skills to other children of her tribe.
Her training was resisted by the menfolk of her tribe who did not see any benefit in education. But representatives of a life-skill training programme, somehow convinced them to let Nagina attend her classes.
Media Labs Asia is a body established by the Ministry of communication and Information Technology "" in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Vigyan Ashram and Bhatke Vimukta Vikas Pratishthan to train over 100 children of denotified nomadic tribes in Maharashtra.
Media Labs Asia looks at the application of Information Communication and technology for the upliftment of the backward sections of the country. It's interesting to see the use of ICT in inducing life skills like healthy and hygienic living, basic mathematics and other such skills in these children.
At the click of a button, the child sees in front of him a virtual market, where he transacts with virtual vendor to buy vegetables, or fruits from some amount of virtual money. This simple exercise teaches him basic arithmetic like negative addition.
The use of local language in an interactive video and relevant animation help in making the children interact with their surroundings better.
"Post the programme, children are now motivated to attend an informal school, they realise the value of being neat and clean and keeping water and food free from contamination. It inculcated values like team spirit, transfer of knowledge amongst peers, relatives, and retain cent per cent of whatever they learn," remarked Ananthkrishnan, advisor, Media Labs Asia.
Just like any other social initiative, this too faced huge amount of resistance form the tribal menfolk who looked at the team as 'politicians' visiting them to curry votes. For the team it was more of fighting their mindset than any thing else.
After successful completion of this project in Maharashtra, Media Labs Asia is now looking at replicating it in other states. It has sought collaboration from local NGOs and private players.
After rolling out programmes for tribal kids, the subsequent initiatives will focus on imparting life skills to the mothers in these tribes, reaffirming the inherent belief that if you educate a man, one individual is educated, and if you educate a woman, a family is educated.

First Published: Tue, September 18 2007. 00:00 IST