“Take a bowl; put two cups water, one cup milk, sugar, tea powder. Heat.” This is one of the methods of making tea proposed by a student in the English class at Unnati, Sadanandanagar.

The English teacher, Kanthimathi, interjects: “Bowl or utensil?” to which another student says: “No. Bowl is used for servicing…”. Again, Ms. Kanthimathi says, “Yes, you are right. Bowl is meant for ‘serving’; to make tea, we use utensils or vessels.”

Watching this class in progress, it would be difficult to believe that the class is full of either graduates or adults who are dropouts. But hailing from less privileged economic backgrounds in rural areas, these two-hour English classes every day in the 70-day vocational course is as good as their first English lessons — one that would guarantee them a job that pays by the end of it.

Need to earn

Take the case of Syed Patel, a B.Ed. graduate from Yadgir. “No English, so no job,” he says, asked why an aspiring teacher would now be training for an administrative job. “I just need to earn, any job will do,” he says immediately, laying to rest any further doubts on his choice.

Nandish. H., an Arts graduate from Bellary, whose farmer brothers are the only bread winners, knows the importance of getting a job only too well. That is why he has abandoned all dreams of pursuing M.A. in English to become a lecturer as he simply “cannot afford it.” He is perfectly okay with “hanging clothes, attaching sizes to clothes and answering customer queries” at a major retail chain.

Successful alumni

As many 4,000 youngsters like Syed and Nandish have successfully landed jobs across the retail, hospitality, administration, and the grooming industry since the inception of ‘Unnati’ in 2003.

Each batch has an overall strength of 150 with 30 students each in the six to nine vocational courses. Those admitted are trained for free, with free accommodation and food, but are required to be from below poverty line families to be eligible. While the concentration is on dropouts to “plug the hole” in the education system, an increasing number of graduates have begun enrolling in these courses, said Ramesh Swamy, trustee of the SGBS Trust that runs ‘Unnati’.

Training in basics

Beginning with “restroom training”, the students, irrespective of which course they are pursuing, are compulsorily trained in English, life skills, values and computers.

“While 82 per cent of our alumni are still working in various companies and 12 per cent have gone on to pursue higher studies. Seven dropped out — most of them women,” Mr. Swamy said, sharing statistics from an impact study on Unnati’s alumni.

Among the alumni is Gururak Kasigavi, from the retail and marketing course, who shifted to working in the ‘procurement and verification’ department of the Aadhaar project from his earlier job, earning at least Rs. 5,000 more in the process.

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