K.N. MURALI SANKAR
Here is a mobile computer classroom that is doing yeoman service in the rural areas.The nimble fingers of eight-year-old Arif swiftly move on the keyboard to click right answers to the questions asked by a computer as part of the interactive learning session. When a picture of a cow appears on the screen and the computer seeks its gender, Arif, a Std. III student, wastes no time in clicking the option "female." For him, computer is a new device, as he does not have regular access to it. The younger son of a tailor in Gannavaram on the outskirts of Vijayawada, Arif attends classes at Roy Nagar Mandal Parishad Primary School. "It looks like the television in my neighbour's house. The difference is that television will not ask us any questions," he explains enthusiastically.
Going mobileThanks to the Computer Aided Learning (CAL) programme of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, school children in rural areas of Krishna district have got access to computers. For the first time in the State, the SSA has introduced a mobile computer classroom that goes around select schools in remote areas at regular intervals. The classroom consists of five computers, a printer and a facilitator to guide children and a data entry operator. The van halts at a particular school for the entire day, and students of each class spend an hour in the special classroom. Taking a cue from the Bangalore-based Azim Premji Foundation, which has developed a mobile computer lab in a hi-tech bus with 40 computers, the SSA authorities have designed the mobile computer classroom. Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development, D. Purandhareswari, inaugurated the classroom, October last. The SSA has procured 68 interactive learning compact discs (CDs) from the Ajim Premji Foundation for the benefit of schoolchildren. "Not just children, but their parents also come to the schools to see computers," says R. Haimeswara Rao, an assistant programme officer of the SSA and in-charge of the CAL programme. Computer is being used to teach alphabets, basics in mathematics, general science and social studies for students of Stds I to VII. Three to five students will share a computer at a time, as the seating capacity of the classroom is limited at 25. Each of them will get a chance to operate the keyboard. The mobile classroom covers 60 schools in a month. Since it is being operational only in three mandals, the van will go to a particular school once in three months. "Students and teachers are asking us to improve the frequency of the visits, while students are not willing to leave the mobile classroom," says P. Madhavilatha, additional project coordinator of the SSA. She says the SSA has spent Rs. 4 lakhs on the pilot project. Though 45 high schools in the Krishna district have been covered under the "Computer Education in 1000 Schools" programme, no primary school has the facility of computer education. "As we are in a computer era, children of this generation should know about computers. We thought the mobile van is the way to create an access to computers for many children at a time," Ms. Madhavilatha explains. She says plans are afoot to procure four more vans in the next academic year to cover all the mandals in Krishna district.