For all those who kept wondering why the State Government spent so much money on providing students with laptops, Mayor Saidai Duraiswamy, while interacting with students, on recently, had an answer. It was to fulfil a vision that the Chief Minister had for the State. And he found an unusual way to prove his point

Standing amid students at P.T. Lee Chengalvaraya Naicker Polytechnic College, he asked them questions on a variety of topics ranging from Kundankulam and the Mullaperiyar dam to problems faced by different countries and who Chengalvaraya Naicker was.

Those who gave answers, even if only partly correct, were rewarded with Rs.100 each. Some faculty members grinned and others uncomfortably tried to avoid his eye when once in a while, he turned towards them and enquired if they knew the answers. The laptops, his argument was, would be a gateway to the world of internet, which with a single click, would provide students a window to events across the globe. “Soon, all of you will have your own laptops in which you should read about the world,” he said.

But in reality, the students, who were given the laptops on Thursday, may have to wait much longer.

The college, like many government-aided ones, does not have a wi-fi connection and internet access is available only at the computer lab.

“It would have been very nice if we had internet connection because that way we can download useful software. We cannot afford the data cards that come for over Rs. 4,000,” said Karthikeyan, a student.

Students thrilled

The students were thrilled, nonetheless. Sporting wide smiles, they had come all prepared with medium-sized backpacks to carry their laptops.

“ Very few of us have personal computers at home. It is a delight to have electronic device of your own,” said a beaming M. Anand, the first of the 418 students to get the laptop. “I am glad my name starts with A,” said the son of a carpenter, who recently got a job in L&T with a salary of Rs.12,000 a month.

The laptops, which have engineering, polytechnic and class XII syllabus data, sport stickers of the Chief Minister, with her photo also pre-set as screen saver.

While movies, music and webcams ‘that lets you video-chat' seemed high on the agenda of students , S. Vicky saw an additional utility too: “We keep practising designs on old, obsolete versions of software because we do not have time to figure out how the new versions work in college. Now, we can improvise our designs at leisure.”

Polytechnic courses in the college are offered in seven branches and students spend about four hours a week in the computer lab learning designing software.

“Many of us use the PC at home only to practise designing before examinations. I have never worked on a laptop before but I like computers,” said Bhagya Lakshmi, another student.

Teachers say they have never seen this excitement in students before.

A. Srinivasan, senior lecturer, Electrical department said, “Design and graphics are now there in every field so finally, the students can explore on their own. Everybody is very happy, especially, at being able to own something that even we teachers don't have.”

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