Wednesday, June 29, 2011

[ZESTCaste] IIT-Delhi rolls out 'etiquette lessons' for SC/ST students

IIT-Delhi rolls out 'etiquette lessons' for SC/ST students
Hemali ChhapiaHemali Chhapia, TNN | Jun 30, 2011, 03.55am IST

Delhi is the only IIT to have felt the pressing need to put all the
selected SC/ST candidates through classes on manners.MUMBAI: Even
before this year's freshmen enter the Indian Institute of
Technology-Delhi, some others will be pushed to pick up etiquette
lessons required to live on the tech school campus. The objective may
be well-intentioned but putting just the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled
Tribe candidates through a 'self-enrichment programme' has prompted
experts to criticize the move as "smacking of apartheid" and causing a
"distinction" between two sets of students on the basis of caste.

Delhi is the only IIT to have felt the pressing need to put all the
selected SC/ST candidates through classes on manners.

The co-ed programme—which will be run from July 10 to July 17—is made
up of modules on communication, personality development and theatre
for communication (more like public speaking). Put together, "in all
logical integrity, it is meant to boost the confidence of students who
come from a different background", say IIT-Delhi heads.

But not everyone thinks of the "correctional programme" as a means to
achieve equilibrium among campus residents. An IIT-Delhi faculty
member snorts at the idea. "A campus is a symbol of assimilation of
many minds and several lives. To carve out a group on the basis of
their origins and put them through a training programme—I would term
it nothing short of apartheid."

Many parents too aren't kicked about the idea. "On day one, the
institute is telling my child that he is different," rues a parent
from Andhra Pradesh whose son is joining IIT-D.

TISS director S Parasuraman feels it is not useful to segregate
students at all. "Every student who joins IIT knows his/her maths but
may not be able to write good English. All students from rural and
underprivileged backgrounds need adjustment but putting them through a
training programme is not the answer. IIT-Delhi needs to have a
long-term support system in place and hire better counsellors for
every student, not just SC/STs or OBCs," he says.

The residential programme is conducted by the Centre for Research and
Education for Social Transformation, Kerala (CREST). It will enable
SC/ST students to develop social skills, orientation and have the
ability to adapt to the environment at IIT Delhi, states the note sent
to all the SC/ST students.

Ashley Paul, a CREST co-ordinator, says, "Most of these students don't
have the social capital; they are mostly first-generation learners and
they come from rural parts of India. The course leaves them a lot more
certain than when they walked in."

From classes in communication to touching on all aspects of
personality development, Paul says the course is meant to help
students shed their inhibitions and "come out of their shell".

But IIT-D director Surendra Prasad says he would love to leave the
door open for any general category student who wants to attend the
programme. "The programme came out of our desire to be pro-active, to
take care of all our students, especially those who hail from
different backgrounds. The entire academic community at the institute
felt that a section of the students need to be better prepared and
confident for their stint at the institute."


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