Tuesday, July 26, 2011

[ZESTCaste] For those who ‘must’ be groomed


For those who 'must' be groomed
Shaju Philip Posted: Jul 26, 2011 at 0341 hrs

Thiruvananthapuram In August 2009, the Supreme Court asked IIT-Delhi
to provide SC/ST students with additional coaching facilities so that
they could do better. Six Dalit students had been expelled from
IIT-Delhi after performing poorly; Justice P Sathasivam said that
students of these communities, socially and economically backward,
need to be taken care of even in specialised institutions such as IITs
and IIMs.

The quest for an exclusive grooming programme eventually took
representatives of IITs and NITs to CREST, the Centre for Research and
Education for Social Transformation in Kozhikode, which since 2002 had
already been working with hundreds of SC and ST youths, mostly
graduates from professional courses.

CREST was recently criticised after launching a programme at
IIT-Delhi, with some students accusing the programme of discriminating
between SC/ST and other students. The programme at IIT-Delhi was later
opened to all students, but CREST authorities insist that some
students do need to be given special care.

CREST director D D Namboothiri said that social development programmes
are a must to bring students from a disadvantaged background into the
mainstream. Faculties in higher learning centres fail to understand
the realities at the grassroots, Namboothriri said.

"The prevailing social exclusion prevents these students from taking
up challenges in the changed social and economic scenario. We are
correcting the collective disadvantages faced by Dalit and
marginalised communities,'' said Namboothiri.

The selection interview at CREST, therefore, gives preference to those
from socially weak backgrounds. Records show that the parents of 52
per cent of those enrolled have had only a high school education, and
those of many others are illiterate.

Called self-enrichment, the orientation programme comprises
motivational and confidence-building courses. CREST has also started a
programme for selected SC/ST students of engineering colleges in
Kerala. CREST associate programme co-ordinator T Y Vinod Krishnan said
thousands of SC/ST students get admission to reserved B Tech seats but
only a few hundred get through.

Today, of the 500-odd students and graduates groomed by CREST so far,
8 per cent have bagged jobs in the private sector, including IT and
ITES, and 18 per cent in PSUs, while 17 per cent have gone for higher

Vinod Jayanandan, who now works as a manager with KPMG in Bangalore,
said the course at CREST changed his life. "After an engineering
course, I had been struggling for lack of social capital,
communication skills and confidence. An intervention of this sort can
make a remarkable difference."

About alleged discrimination, he said, "Even bright students from the
marginalised sections face discrimination in college. There are
several occasions that reveal a student's ST/ST tag. Hence, there is
no logic that a self-enrichment programme will make things worse."

A brainchild of IIM-Kozhikode, CREST started as a centre of excellence
in 2002 and was later transformed into an autonomous body. The course
is of five months. In the 40-strong current batch, 20 are B Tech

CREST has also signed an agreement with NIT in Suratkal (Karnataka)
for conducting orientation programmes for SC/ST students.


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