The facility in Dr. Ambedkar Government Arts College is in disuse for over a year
As many as 10 brand new computers, a 59-inch LCD television, a projector and a photocopying machine-cum-printer are all lying in shambles at the language lab in Dr. Ambedkar Government Arts College, Vyasarpadi.
The facility set up in 2009 to impart language training and develop the soft skills of students of the Department of English Literature is in disuse since February 2010. With practical tests for students of the English Department round the corner, lecturers are forced to consider ways of holding the tests outside the lab.
The Public Works Department took up construction work for a false ceiling and the installation of air conditioners last February. The work was expected to be completed in a few months' time. The power supply was also disconnected for the purpose. However, work is being taken up irregularly and has therefore progressed very slowly, say college authorities.
A few weeks ago, the college principal received a letter signed by all the students of the English Department requesting that the language lab be opened for soft skills training. “I have made repeated requests to the PWD, but the work is yet to proceed,” says M. B. Chandrasekhar, principal of the college.
Most of the equipments were purchased with the funds allocated by the Higher Education Department and some teaching aids were procured with funds from the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Students are quite disappointed as they say they hoped that they could improve their language skills by practising with the audio-visuals aids at the lab regularly.
“Most of us are first-generation learners from villages. The sessions at the language help were helping us understand the nuances of pronunciation,” says C. Elumalai, a final year student of B.A. English literature.
Students have fond memories of learning at the lab in its initial few months. When the lab was functional, they even got to watch plays such as Edgar Allan Poe's ‘The Raven' at the lab. “We found those exercises quite useful and our seniors also told us that the experience gained in the lab sessions were useful during their post graduation, too. But now we are completely dependent on textbook lessons and lectures,” he says.
The PWD official in-charge of the work said the payment from the college did not come on time and therefore the delay. “We will resume work shortly,” he said. College authorities, however, said that the monetary transaction for the work would be between the Higher Education and Public Works Departments and they would not know about it. “The Higher Education Department's effort in imparting language skills particularly to first generation learners is laudable. It has provided government colleges with small and yet significant infrastructure. But, as there are herbarium keepers to assist the botany lab, the English language labs also require assistants,” says M. Ravichandran, Head, Department of English, who has made repeated requests in writing to accelerate the speed of the construction work in the lab.
Over 50 per cent of the colleges have not utilised the equipments and funds allocated by the Higher Education Department for setting up language labs, says a former Director of Collegiate of Education.
Observing that the English teachers have to be trained to effectively run the language labs, he says language labs are meant not only for students of the English Department. “It has to be used for the benefit of students in all streams,” he emphasises.