Published: 04th October 2020
Pratham Institute's trainers in Odisha are braving all the odds to keep teaching online. Here's how
Trainers at Pratham Institute are doing all they can to master the world of digital so that their students can continue to skill themselves. We speak to a few trainers to find out what they are doing
Long before the world was forced to go digital in more ways than one, Pratham Institute, the literacy, education and vocational training arm of the New Delhi-based NGO Pratham, was already gearing up for a hybrid model, including for the seven centres it has in Odisha. The trainers and students were slowly easing into online classes when the double trouble began. As if the pandemic wasn't enough Cyclone Fani slammed into Odisha on May 3. I suppose what they say is true, trouble always comes in twos. Bhanupratap Pradhani, one of the trainers at the centre in Kalimela, Odisha went back home owing to the pandemic. But the cyclone wreaked havoc on the cellular networks too, so the 27-year-old saw only one way out, he went back to the centre in Kalimela and started taking online classes from there. In this way, many teachers have gone above and beyond their duties to ensure that the show must go on, as far as education is concerned. And we spoke to folks who are running the show.
At the 'centre' of it all
Pratham Institute's seven centres in Odisha were launched in 2017 with various partners such as Odisha Skill Development Authority (OSDA), ITC, Tata Motors and more. Students, after schooling or dropouts, are taught skills that will enable them to get jobs in sectors like hospitality and household maintenance (electrical, plumbing). Bhanupratap, who works as an Academic Trainer in the Electrical domain, informs us that online classes were started in July via Zoom. "It was challenging in the initial week, but slowly, both students and we were eased into it," he shares. There are two levels to every training, each about 15 days long. In the first level, called Dekho (watch), content in the form of videos and ppt is shared and then, virtual sessions are held to clear doubts, which covers all theoretical aspects. While level two, or Seekho (learn) is all about hands-on work, live practicals, demos, the works. "But how does one do practicals during a pandemic? As far as the electricity domain is concerned, we encouraged them to repair things at home and if not repair, open them up and explore," informs Chandrakant Rout, Cluster Head, Odisha. Similarly, once the educational institutions and coaching centres open their doors to students, they are offering to do all the repair works for the ones lying within 10 km radius of their centre, for free! "This way, our students will get to practice as well," says Satyajit Pradhan, State Head (Skilling), Odisha, with a smile.
Satyajit Pradhan and Chandrakant Rout | (Pic: Pratham Institute)
Working to learn
Academic Incharge Anita Kumari Panigrahy, who works in the domain of Food Production with the children, explains the Seekho aspect of things, which really has our interest piqued. "We facilitate the whole process and ask students to take pictures or send videos of their work. WhatsApp has proved to be a great tool for this," informs the cheerful 37-year-old. From vegetable chopping to making a mean cake, she covers all subjects, even topics like IPR and sexual harassment. When it comes to Dekho, all content is shared and at 2 pm, on a video call all doubts are discussed. "The challenge was that the pandemic has been emotionally taxing for students and for parents, so we had to assure them. Even for placements, we had to reassure them that all safety protocols will be followed," says the trainer who is based out of Ganjam. The funda this trainer uses is #PositiveVibesOnly. She encourages positive thinking and reiterates time and again that she is available on call whenever the children need to talk.
Subasis Mal has another way of helping children beat the pandemic blues. "After approximately two months, students stand an opportunity to get placed. With placement comes financially stability and emotional strength as well," reasons Food & Beverage Service Trainer. But where will the students go if hotels are closed? "Small and independent restaurants, canteens, hospitals and so on are still taking people," the 31-year-old from Baliguali, Puri. They are waiting for more clarity from the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) with regards to reopening their centres, all of which have residential facilities. "We have an occupation capacity of 60 students at our facility for level 1, maybe we will reduce it to half. It all depends on the guidelines," says Satyajit Pradhan.
Bhanupratap Pradhani, Anita Kumari Panigrahy and Subasis Mal | (Pic: Pratham Institute)
The trainers have really stepped up their game, we are told. Adapting to the digital world, taking to YouTube and Zoom with a gusto. They have even set up mini skill labs and are always on their toes, whenever there is electricity they are on their feet, shooting videos or taking classes.
After Dekho and Seekho, comes the OJT, or On Job Training and then comes placements. The very first batch in electrical which was placed in Hyderabad faced problems when it comes to travel. "Booking train tickets was unusually difficult. "Students stayed at our centre till they got the tickets and are now successfully working," informs Chandrakant Rout. They hope that similarly, many students will be able to make the journey of bagging jobs.
For more on them, check out prathaminstitute.org