Sunday, February 21, 2010

This time in Pench...

Cub of the collared tigress. One of last year's litter of four.

Chital stag. Sadly, in their frenzied pursuit of the stripes, few tourists stop to admire these beautiful creatures, no doubt believing that they are relatively "common" and numerous. (Is any wild species really numerous these days?)

Lone Nilgai near Totladoh lake

Golden Jackal

White-eyed Buzzard. Pench is a birder's paradise. Didn't see vultures this time though.

Crested Hawk Eagle (formerly called Changeable Hawk Eagle), clutching a baby langur it had killed.

Photos: Rajashree Khalap
14-15 February, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Our IT education programme launched at Sawra, Pench

Finally - we started the first phase of the IT literacy programme we’ve been planning for villagers near Pench Tiger Reserve.

All of us involved are on a bit of a high, because it's taken quite a lot of co-ordination and it was great to see it go off so well. This is the brainchild of Mumbai volunteer Kirti Chavan. He is too modest to say this himself, so I'm saying it for him. Kirti is an IT professional and one-time trainer with NIIT. Read about his preliminary visit

Mumbai volunteer Bipasha Majumder was instrumental in working out our collaboration with the NGO Pratham for this scheme. She works for Pratham and it was she who linked us up, juggling dates and details with amazing persistence. Those who ask what they can do for tiger conservation - here's a possible answer - use your unique skills and position to find the best way you can help the cause.

Here's Kirti's report on the initial training programme, 13, 14, 15 February 2010:

The IT literacy scheme is the latest project of our Employment Cell which teaches new skills to villagers in/around tiger reserves, so they can abandon their traditional forest-destructive livelihoods and at the same time aim for better incomes.

Through this phase we want to impart basic computer education to children of the village. This will not only equip them with new skills but also give them a feel of the progressive world outside the village. As part of the second phase we want to provide specialized training to young adults so that they will be well-equipped to find good jobs in cities.

We selected Sawra village near the reserve boundary as the best site to introduce this programme on a pilot basis. If it works well we will extend it to other villages in the Pench region and then (we hope) to other Reserves as well.

For this project we have collaborated with Pratham, one of the largest NGOs working for education of underprivileged children. As per their model, the trainees selected for the course will (after reaching the required level of competence) then train school children in the village.

On earlier trips to Sawra, Kirti and Sikander Lokhande (Pratham) spoke to children, villagers and school teachers to understand what they wanted to do and what domain of computer literacy would work best for them. The entire exercise was facilitated by SF Conservation Officer Anoop Awasthi, who has a close rapport with the villagers. It was decided that a basic computer learning module was needed which would not only teach children how to use computers but also help them perform better in their school curriculum. As for young adults, there is an immediate need for specialized training which will make them “industry-ready” and will increase their chances of employment. Trainers were identified who could be taught by Pratham and could then act as full-time/part-time trainers who will teach at the village computer centre set up by us.

On 13, 14 and 15 February, two trainers from Pratham visited Sawra with Kirti and carried out their “Train the trainer” programme. Four people did the course: two primary school teachers, Manoj Mankar and Sachin Ambadkar, and two students, Sachin Kodape and Sita Uikey. Trainers Rakhi Mali and Jyoti Phadke shared their lesson plan and teaching tips with them. They did a wonderful job, specially considering that they had to work in a new and unusual environment, and schedule the classes in between power cuts! Do visit our group album to see the photos.

Two desktops had been donated to us for this programme by Mr Bhaskar Shetty (Mumbai) and a laptop by Gautam Berry (Mumbai). We’d like to thank both of them for the donation, and we also thank TCI, who transported them from Mumbai to Amravati without any charge.

The trainees will now practice on assignments and CD-based tutorials for a month, after which Kirti will visit to review their progress. After that they will begin to teach school children.

Feedback about the course has been very encouraging and the children are enthusiastic about this project. This is great news because IT literacy really is a life-changing skill. And needless to say, wildlife there will benefit immensely if these communities stop living off forest resources.

We will need more computers to implement the next stage of this programme. The minimum system requirements are:
Pentium III Computer ( recommended pentium IV upwards )
Processor can be AMD Athelon or Intel or even Celeron
512 MB RAM ( Recommended 1GB )
8GB Hard disk space (Recommended 10GB upwards)
The computer should have CD drive ( working condition) and a USB port

If you can help with this, please email rajashree DOT khalap AT gmail DOT com. Please circulate this to others who may be interested in donating a computer.

Photos: Kirti Chavan
Sawra, Pench Tiger Reserve