Kolkata: Taking education to sex workers and prisoners in jail in West Bengal, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou) has decided to waive fees for them.
“To start with, Ignou has decided to select the red light district of Sonagachi here from where 26 sex workers are likely to join courses on healthcare and food and nutrition programmes,” Ignou vice-chancellor V.N. Rajsekharan Pillai said.
He said that the Kolkata Regional Centre would focus on entrepreneurship development and vocational programmes to help sex workers and their children gain economic independence.
Ignou runs a study centre to educate sex workers and their children. It was also providing certificate course to prisoners at the Alipore central jail.
Besides sex workers and prisoners, Ignou was helping the farming community in use of Integrated Pest Management technology in potato cultivation, in collaboration with the West Bengal agriculture department and has also started a certificate course for them.
“The state government has agreed in principle to sponsor 6,000 progressive farmers for the programme,” Pillai told reporters on Monday.
Pillai said that a short training programme in Bengali has been developed for betel vine farmers in the Sunderbans to help them learn modern techniques of cultivation and entrepreneurial skills.
Altogether 500 farmers have been sponsored by the Sunderban Institute of Science and Cultural advancement (SIS), an NGO working in the region, he said.
Ignou has also begun a certificate course in Bengali in organic farming and consumer protection.
A short-term training programme for head masters in the Sunderbans has been been taken up on a pilot basis to help develop their skills.
In collaboration with the West Bengal government and the National Council for Teachers’ education, Ignou has also developed a curriculum for primary teacher training.
Pillai said that the Ignou, over the past years, has been working on a series of new and path-breaking ideas to meet diverse and often daunting expectations of a large number of learners who could not afford to acquire education from a conventional university.