Thursday, October 25, 2012

Empowerment for Mahadalit youths with English language skills

Manoj Chaurasia in Patna

For the first time, Mahadalit youths in Bihar are being provided with an opportunity to learn spoken English. This exclusive project for them aims at bettering their skills, which should help them in getting good jobs, and consequently raising their standard of living.

Mahadalits, the poorest of the poor in the society, constitute around 15 per cent of the state’s total population, and they play a significant role in politics and formation of the government.

The background to this huge step forward in the social uplifting of Mahadalits, stems from a range of initiatives put in place for this particular community by the Nitish Kumar government.

The latest project is a collaboration between the Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission, a commission of the government of Bihar and British Lingua, a training institute of national repute in the field of English skills and capacity building. The training module offers four-hour daily classes except on Sundays.

These are divided into four equal sessions ~ sentence formation, group discussion, language activities and feedback. The structural-cum-interactive method adopted in the programme was developed by British Lingua and has proved highly successful in imparting practical and easy-to-follow ways of using English in a variety of contexts.

Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said the NDA was committed to raising the Mahadalit community out of its downtrodden position, and bringing it to the main stream of society, while Mr Vidyanand Vikal, chairman of the Bihar State Commission for Scheduled Castes, who visited and interacted with the Mahadalit youths said: "I am more than happy to see these youths who are generally more comfortable speaking their own regional language, quite at par with those who can speak fluent English. It is no less than a miracle to see their improvement in such a short space of time”.

British Lingua’s project director group captain I B Thakur said he was most gratified to see the Mahadalit youths holding conversations in English.

Words of praise for the scheme have also come from the trainees. “I had never thought that I too would be able to communicate in English one day. I'm grateful to both the British Lingua and the government of Bihar for their role in providing me with an opportunity of obtaining English Skills,” said Tulshi Rani, a student. “Now I can hold conversations in English and feel that I'm at par with those belonging to the advanced communities,” said Suresh Mahto, another student.

Mr Birbal Jha, Managing Director, British Lingua, said: “By taking English skills to the grassroots of society, we can instill a sense of worth in its members. They can benefit from knowledge of the English language as it brings parity and removes the divisions within society that hold certain sections back simply because of their ancestry.” Mr Jha, quoting Mahatma Gandhi said: “One small step leads to another and soon you have a journey”.

With Bihar taking its place as a meeting point for new investment, where English is the language of business, both nationally and internationally, the barriers are being broken down by integrating English into the lives of the state’s most downtrodden section of society.

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