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Free laptops a talking point in villages

CHENNAI: P Damodaran, a class 12 student at Kakkalur Government Higher Secondary School in Tiruvallur, is quite the troubleshooter in his neighbourhood. “My friends come to me when they have trouble with their laptops because I attended hardware classes and learnt Basic two years ago,” said one of the first students in Tamil Nadu to get the free laptop from the state government.

Nearly two months after he brought it home, the laptop continues to be a talking point. “My father is a farmer and doesn’t have a mobile phone. My neighbours who study in other schools come home occasionally to see what is new in the laptop and sometimes even get their school projects done. It is very useful for all of us,” Damodaran said.

Forty-nine students from the government school in Kakkalur and 69 in Koppur got their laptops on September 15. “90% of our students are seeing a computer for the first time. Some students bring it to school every day,” said Kakkalur school headmaster R Madhivazhagan.

S Divya, another proud laptop owner, reads the Thirukkural, looks up the dictionary, and studies her textbooks online, as they are the only additional software that came with the laptop. “This place is still a bit like a village, so none of the students have accessed the internet on their laptops. Our computer science students find it useful during the practicals as they can now test their C or C++ programmes for syntax errors,” said the school’s computer science teacher E Udhaykumar.

In Chennai, M Premka, a class 12 student of Nandanam Government School, can’t wait to get her hands on her laptop, due to arrive sometime before the end of this academic year. Before that, she must learn how to open and shut down the computer. “Only the computer science students know how to do that,” said the commerce student.

Students in the National Service Scheme of Anna University have started teaching students basic computer skills.

“The computer science students know the basic workings of a computer, but the commerce or vocational group students haven’t even been to the computer labs in their schools. So we thought that we should help them learn to use their laptops,” said S Bharathi, a third year geo-informatics engineering student.

While her friends S Sharmila and K Gayathri try their hand at a PowerPoint presentation, Premka lists her plans once the laptop is handed to her.

“I am going to learn to do accounting on the computer. My brother is studying BSc Computer Science. He said he will teach me how to access the Internet and learn more,” she said.

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