Get him to sit on a chair with a laptop and ask him to double click on ‘Paint', and Udayakumar, a class XI student of Government Higher Secondary School, Nandanam, is a little uneasy. “Enukku paint vela teriyum (I know how to paint),” he declares, explaining how he helps his father in scratching out the rough surfaces on the walls, making them ready to be painted.

For Udayakumar and his classmates who participated in a training programme organised by the National Service Scheme (NSS) members of Anna University here on Saturday, laptops are quite exotic. And the fact they would soon be getting these as part of the State government's free scheme has got them all excited.

“The moment we switched the laptops on, the students gathered and got seated expecting us to show them a movie or some photographs. That is what many think computers are for,” says Bharathi Shankar, one of the trainers. All students were from the commerce stream with very little exposure to computers. “Accounting does not need computers, right?” asks Gayathri, a student, a bit perplexed. “ Okay, tell me your marks,” asks Aishwarya Shankar Rao, another trainer, even as she pulls open an excel sheet, and keys in the numbers with names, creating a virtual list of ‘totals' and ‘difference' and ‘ranks'. “It will do all the counting for you,” she says. All the trainers were students of the College of Engineering Guindy.

The government plans to give away 9.06 lakh of the machines to students of State-aided colleges and high schools. While 6,600 laptops were given to students on September 15, the rest will be distributed in the next six months. To ensure that the young users are conversant with the working of the laptops, students and faculty members of Anna University will conduct such training sessions.

The first step is to get them thrilled about the machine, say the trainers, and Saturday's experience proved that there is a lot to be done so that the laptops find the right use.

While Jayakumar, another school student, who has used his brother's computer for transferring songs to a cell phone thinks knowing more about computers will help him earn money, his friend Surendar wants to get into police, “so that he does not have to use computers,” says: “I am not sure if I will know what to do with it [laptop].”

“The lack of exposure to computers is such that we are starting with the basics now,” says Ms.Bharathi Shankar.

For most of these children, going to school is perhaps the least taxing of activities. “My parents are coolie workers. They leave by 6 a.m. I have to cook for me and my brothers,” says Sharmila. Her friend Gayathri is in a similar plight.

“We rarely find time beyond household work and school. We do not know what we will do with the laptops but I am keen to learn computers.”


Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012

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