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Shaping lives, building dreams at the Don Bosco Barefoot College

The Don Bosco Youth Mission and Educational Services (DBYES), in Assam, has initiated several programmes offering deprived children in the northeast opportunities to better their employment prospects

Boko, a remote village 60 km from Guwahati, has witnessed a silent revolution of sorts. Two experiments started by the Don Bosco Youth Mission and Educational Services (DBYES) -- the Bosco Barefoot College (BBC) and the Deprived Urban Children (DUC) programme -- have gained immense popularity in the northeast.

The programmes, conceived by Father V M Thomas, head of the DBYES in Guwahati, aim to provide educational opportunities to deprived children and youth.

Over the years, the DBYES has been involved in educating and training scores of young people both in formal schools and at informal youth development centres.

The idea of the Bosco Barefoot College (BBC) struck Fr Thomas after a visit to Boko that made him realise the problems facing young people in the region. "Many here are school dropouts, semi-literates left behind in the march to progress. This has generated deep-seated frustration, frequently finding expression in violence. There was a need to empower these youths; for a job-oriented, skills-based, work-oriented educational institute," he says.

The Bosco Barefoot College was deliberately set up in a rural setting, as the plan was to help young people learn life-sustaining skills like modern agricultural practices, animal husbandry, electrical wiring, carpentry, masonry, candle-making, tailoring and screen-printing in a familiar environment.

With batches of 25 children drawn from all over the northeast, the college offers a six-week training course empowering school dropouts and providing them the necessary skills to earn a decent livelihood. In the last four years, the BBC has trained over 400 youngsters, preparing them for employment.

The Deprived Urban Children (DUC) project in Guwahati is Fr Thomas' second successful initiative. The programme aims at getting many of the 20,000-odd out-of-school children in Guwahati into schools.

Conceptualised by the DBYES and supported by Unicef, in collaboration with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Assam, the project got over 1,200 children in the 5-14 age-group into classrooms within a year.

Almost all the children supported by the DUC project live in slums and have never been to school before. The project is a modified version of similar programmes being run in Kolkata and Baroda. It also aims to run a 'bridge course' -- an accelerated teaching-learning process -- to help overage children catch up and join the mainstream in local schools.

Although, initially, the programme targeted children in Guwahati, its success in the city prompted it to extend its services to other parts of Assam.

Next on Fr Thomas' list is a Don Bosco Institute -- a management training centre cum youth development institute. "Once this comes up, northeast-based firms will no longer have to send executives outside the region for in-service training. There will also be various part- and full-time courses in computers, mass communications, spoken English, etc, for the youth," explains Fr Thomas who is confident of realising the DBYES motto: 'Shaping lives, building dreams'.

Contact : Fr V M Thomas
Director, DBYES, Don Bosco
Guwahati 781001
Tel: 0361-2523222
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

InfoChange News & Features, October 2004