Loyola students put on ALERT

Students of Andhra Loyola College have been put on alert. Not that the college apprehends any trouble, but the management intends to inculcate a sense of social awareness and responsibility among students and encourage them to develop compassion for the underprivileged sections of society through the Andhra Loyola Extension Services for Rural Transformation (ALERT).

The scheme was launched this year and integrated into the curriculum. As part of the new programme, the college has made it mandatory for every student to put in at least 40 hours of community service in various centres involved in social work.

"Besides sensitising students to the stark social realities, the ALERT programme aims at providing them an opportunity to utilise the knowledge gained in the classroom for the benefit of the community,'' according to the Principal, C. Peter Raj, and the Rector, P.J. Sandanasamy.

To achieve its objective, the college has worked out a few modalities, including assigning a habitation in the neighbourhood to each class. The fixation of the 40-hour community work encompasses at least eight hours of theoretical inputs. The programme commences with an `exposure visit' to a village to enable students to take stock of the situation, make a household survey, prioritise their activities and develop interaction with people of that community.

The visit is followed by a two-day camp at the village to provide ample scope to students to mingle with residents and get a first hand account of their problems. The remaining part of the scheme comprises weekend visits, where students are required to form themselves into functional groups and take up various activities in their respective habitations.

To drive home the point that the programme is a serious affair, a separate progress report is maintained for different groups to keep a record of their activities. The practical work done by students and its documentation are supervised, evaluated and graded in terms of attendance, involvement, achievement, team spirit, communication skills and creative ability.

Besides, the college has also embarked upon yet another programme called Higher Education for Persons with Special Needs (HEPSN), a support service for the differently abled, streamlined and made more systematic with the funding of the University Grants Commission (UGC). "The idea is to create a congenial atmosphere and assist them in their academic pursuit by instilling self-confidence in them. This would equip them with the requisite skills to secure gainful employment,'' explains Mr. Peter Raj.

Loyola college takes pride in being the first and only institution in coastal Andhra to have been chosen by the UGC for this specialised programme.

By P. Sujatha Varma in Vijayawada