Not merely an end in itself, the MOP community radio serves as a centre for various social outreach programmes organised by the college.
When the Ministry of Communication and Broadcasting passed a Bill allowing colleges to start community radios, MOP Vaishnav College, Chennai, became the first arts and science college to launch an FM station in 2005. The radio is popular in the neighbourhood and is making waves within a radius of 7–8 km. With programmes in health, women’s entrepreneurship, child welfare, and more, the radio station also involves children from Assumption Higher Secondary School and Nungambakkam Girls’ High School, among others in their programmes.
Sangeetha who finished her schooling from Nungambakkam Girls High School has a success story to narrate. She took part in the radio programmes even while she was in school. As a Class X student, Sangeetha got the top rank in her locality. She was celebrated on radio, and the Principal of MOP Vaishnav College, Nirmala Prasad, awarded her a sum of Rs. 10,000. Yet again, Sangeetha topped her Class XII exams and was given a seat in the college. She is now pursuing BSc in Computer Science. “Working with the radio station for the community has benefited me as much if not more than the people whom I meet through the radio,” she says.
In Manidhargal Palavidham, the focus is on people from diverse walks of life, whose voices would not be heard otherwise. Samudayathirkaga Ivargal is a programme that showcases the work of ordinary people. Their most popular programme is Pooncholai for which they get children from nearby schools to participate.
Their work does not stop with radio programmes and often takes them outside, as is the case with Kasumele Kasuvandhu, an entrepreneurship programme.
Several Women’s self help groups (SHGs) responded to the episodes aired under this programme; and Ms. Prasad helped them set up and carry out their businesses. This played an important role in shaping flower sellers into bouquet makers, encouraging women’s groups to set up Biriyani stalls during college functions and more.
Students from MA in broadcast communication and BSc in electronic media participate, but it is not just them. Hemalatha, who is in the final year of BSc mathematics, works actively in the radio station and has participated in three or four outreach events. She describes her interactions with the auto drivers in the locality to promote HIV awareness. “The auto rickshaw drivers near our college were quite receptive, but the ones near Nungambakkam were a bit offended — they wondered who we were to talk about this, especially since we were girls. Then we convinced them and made them listen to us. It was an experience that taught us how to approach people.”
Subbuthai Padma, in her final year of journalism, is a student reporter. She gives updates on the programmes on Facebook. She once observed the school children making a play for the radio, with the theme given by the college. “They were so good that when I heard it, I could see it in my mind. They had taken care of minute details,” she says, avowing that the radio experience had really made a change in her life.
The programmes are produced by their teacher, Ms Aruna, who has been with the radio station for five years. One can see that it’s been something that she loves doing. “The principal is the driving force behind this project. She takes personal interest in the outreach programmes,” she says. “Anyone can knock on her door and ask for help.