Published: 14th November 2018
How coding and robotics are bringing kids to the Govt School in this Tamil Nadu village
Here's how a coding class, part of an Amazon initiative, in the Govt School in Puduvoyal is bringing kids to school in droves
On that Tuesday morning, a mild drizzle clouded the sunshine over the skies of Puduvoyal. Folding my yellow umbrella, I enter a classroom full of seventh graders and two young teachers at the Panchayat Union Government Middle School, Madhavaram. Now you would definitely expect a group of 12-year-olds to chirp aloud like a group of cockatoos. But, boy oh boy, was I wrong or what? This bunch was busy stacking up paper cups. Now what on earth could they be doing, I wondered. "They're learning how to code," the instructor, Borve Kharsyntiew, tells me.
Cup stack coding, a technique where children are taught the basics of coding, programming and robotics is relatively new and is gaining popularity in city schools slowly. Thanks to Amazon and Play Learn Foundation, the students of this tiny school in a remote village on the fringes of Chennai is getting a hang of STEM education. "Here, we are teaching them the basics of Mechanics and Physics and how to write a program through day-to-day activities. It's best to start early. By the end of the term, they also get to work with a robot," says Borve. These classes are conducted for students between grade II and VIII.
The initiative has also provided the school with LCD projectors and laptops, enabling smart classrooms. The school's Headmistress, Tamil Arasi, notes how these have helped in increasing the enrollment rate in the school and getting children to attend classes regularly. "These children are very keen to attend the robotics classes where they were taught about motors, the gear mechanism, lever and pulleys, which they learn practically. The attendance is high on Mondays and these children do not skip any class now," she notes.
For the past couple of years, Amazon has been working closely with the people of five villages helping the women and children to live better lives. Next, we go to the Amazon Cares community centre in the village. Women and college students are trained here in stitching, embroidery, jewellery making, handicrafts and computers. We speak to Shahida Begum, a young mother, who couldn't control her excitement about her newfound earning. "In a couple of weeks, I've almost perfected tailoring. I stitch for my family and get orders from the neighbours. That's not just it. A few days ago, the tailor who used to stitch my clothes took a few tips from me," she laughs.
We also meet K Ponnarasi, a resident of Puduvoyal, who discovered her calling to be a beautician. Ponnarasi attended a training by Naturals, organised at the centre. On her trainer's recommendation, she underwent further training in Chennai, after which she received a job offer at the Salon.
(The writer was invited by Amazon to visit their Community Centre in Puduvoyal)