Information Technology is fast emerging as the single largest avenue for both formal and self-employment. While this would mean opportunities for a number of us almost automatically, but for a committed effort to stem it, a significantly large segment would remain out of reckoning. This in particular includes the large but distributed tribal population of India. The digital divide is but a newer form of the divide that has always existed. All of us know that the tribes have remained an isolated segment of our society often lacking in educational or employment opportunities. The conception of Information Technology Institute for the Tribes of India (ITITI) aims at remedying this to some extent.
Information Technology Institute for the Tribes of India, Dehradun (ITITI) is a charitable institution is a dream project aiming at providing tribal youth a futuristic vision and rekindle in them hopes for a better confident future. It was inaugurated on January 28, 2004 by the then Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The institute currently has students from Uttaranchal, the North-Eastern states and Ladakh. ITITI is unique in the sense that it not only provides the tribal children, among the most underprivileged in the society, education as per the CBSE syllabus, but uses Information Technology as a tool for education.
Situated at Dehra Dun in Uttaranchal of India, ITITI offers tribal youth an opportunity to join the mainstream by providing them a futuristic vision and rekindle in them a hope for a better and more confident future.
The Institute also sows the seeds of entrepreneurship in tribal youth so that they can contribute to the development of the tribal regions they belong to and the nation as a whole. Tribal children from Chushul on our northern most frontier of Tawang and distant villages off Dimapur and Kohima and Gangtok and Kachar and Haflong – they all are here with distinct languages, cultural hues, dialects, but share one dream- Kuch Karke Dikhana Hai (We have to do something to show to the world).
The students are being offered free of cost residential accommodation, formal education from classes VI-XII based on the scheme of studies of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), together with training in Information Technology. By offering quality education and supplementing it with a tailor made computers and Information Technology training, the Institute hopes to, at the end of the formal senior secondary level, to put students on the path of either IT entrepreneurship or the pursuit of higher academic excellence by way of enrolment in professional courses.
The intervention is designed to motivate them to contribute constructively to the development of their tribal areas either directly or indirectly.
The student population of ITITI belong to an exclusive group of the tribal society living on the fringes of mainstream society, vulnerable to a host of divisive and exploitative forces. Providing them an opportunity at normal mainstream education is in itself an empowering initiative. In addition, the Institute is providing world-class education at almost zero-cost of parents. Recognising that excellence costs, but in the long run mediocrity costs far more, the IT training affords opportunities to engage with forefront technologies that can empower students to not only overcome the initial handicaps but also compete with the rest of the world as an equal.
Setting up the challenge and empowering students to live up to it is the goal of any progressive education system. To this end, the Institute caters to a variety of student aspirations, abilities, and preparation, making available appropriate content and means to satisfy there diverse needs.
ITITI is a dream project aiming at providing tribal youth a futuristic vision and rekindle in them hopes for a better confident future.
The Institute demands the best effort and performance from all students, whether they are gifted or less able, whether destined for college, or entrepreneurship. Students must be nurtured to possess a deep respect for intelligence, achievement, and learning, and the skills needed to use them; for setting goals; and for disciplined work. This respect must be accompanied by intolerance for the shoddy and second-rate masquerading as ‘good enough’. Underperformance is evil and students forfeit their chance for life at its fullest when they withhold their best effort in learning. The goal, thus, at the Institute, is to attain knowledge and skills that will enable students to create their own future and control their destinies.
India has had in its traditional education system the right and proper mechanism for ensuring this. Integrating the best of a gurukula system (ancient system of learning when the students used to stay in the home of the teacher) of nurturing values and modern technologies, as a vehicle for empowerment is therefore an outstanding feature of this initiative.
Socio-cultural education aimed at developing a healthy concern for their brethren in the tribal societies, a healthy attitude towards the world of work, building character and self-esteem is the central theme of this integration. Some of the features of this unique educational system are as follows:
- A unique integration of IT and mainstream education;
- A curricular continuum designed to overcome the debilitating influences of an examination-centric and conventional grade-wise, age-wise classification of students;
- A vocational orientation providing avenues for higher education and/or entrepreneurship;
- The establishment and management of a goshala (cowshed) and farm by the students and teachers;
- Participatory management of the hostel and school by the students and teachers;
- Effective management of instructional and student time, a structured but flexible timetable providing adequate opportunity for the development of effective and independent study and work skills;
- Development of an interface with leading scientific and cultural institutions to nurture the educational influence;
- Cultural education centred around the best of tribal traditions and festivities, ensuring strengthening of their roots.
The curricular focus is on integrating basic IT skills, entrepreneurship training, responsible attitudes to societal development and quest for academic and other forms of excellence. The comprehensive but flexible IT curriculum, with 5 levels, is integrated with the regular CBSE curriculum. The full programme involves six strands – basic operations, multimedia, web development, database management, programming and hardware and networking. Spanning over 7 years, students are encouraged to gain proficiency in their chosen area and at the same time, develop the basic competencies in all stands.
While life-long learning skills are essential in all fields, it is all the more important in the field of IT, which keeps changing at a mind-boggling pace. The full programme of the Institute emphasise this aspect and strives to get students tuned to ‘learning to learn’ very early in their educational career. Another unique feature of the programme is the ‘Earn while you Learn’ scheme, to instill a sense of productivity, independence and self-esteem which are essential trails of an entrepreneur.
The Institute is just three years old and has already met with successes on many fronts. The first batch of students fared very well in the Class X Board examination and did their Institute proud by bringing a cent percent result. Sports, is another area in which students have shown promise and have been declared as the district champion in football. Besides they have endeared themselves to the people of Dehra Dun, who generally would not miss any opportunity to be with them either on routine school days or during celebrations.
These are small steps towards realising a big dream. People who have inspired and saw that it takes off are already legend in their own fields. But they have taken time off to help these children of most deprived and isolated places, who had never seen a train or a computer before they came here. F.C.Kohli is the patron and Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala is the Chairman. Dr. Bharat Bhasker, dean and Head IT, IIM, Lucknow and Vidya M.S. of the famed vidyaonline.net are the founder members. Vidya has given ITITI its unique academic curriculum and guides overall academic activities. Presently Prof. G.S.Murthy, former dean of Nuclear Chemistry in Andhra University, who had also worked with Nanaji Deshmukh in Chitrakoot as Director, has volunteered to spend a year for the Institute. Dehra Dun’s social and educational stalwarts have owned it up enthusiastically.