Keralites can go back to ‘school’ in the UAE

State government plans 10 literacy centres in labour camps and community associations

For less educated Keralite expatriates in Gulf who could not pass their matriculation examinations before leaving the shores of their homeland, it is now time to go back to school.

They will now get a chance to complete their matriculation in the UAE through 10 new centres to be opened by the Kerala State Education Department’s Distance Education Scheme.

The Kerala government is starting nine centres in the UAE and one in Qatar to enroll illiterates and school dropouts to help them continue their schooling by attending contact classes planned in labour camps and community associations in UAE.

This decision was taken because Keralite expatriates working as office boys, delivery boys in cafeterias and supermarkets, drivers etc, who could not complete their schooling back home, cannot take long leave to enroll for courses conducted by the State Literacy Mission in Kerala.  A UAE-wide campaign to enroll students for the matriculation examination (equivalent to tenth grade or SSLC) will be carried out through community organisations supported by the Indian embassy and consulate.

Kerala, homeland of a large number of Indian expatriates in service and business in UAE, is the first Indian state to achieve 100 per cent literacy. A campaign supported by voluntary associations and the state government made it the first 100 per cent literate state in India.

School dropouts from 17 years to any age people can participate in the state’s literacy scheme - 84-year-old Aiysha Chelakkadu, a Muslim housewife, obtained her matriculation in 1991.  Even now, many of the candidates who appear for the matriculation exam are over 60 and many Gulf-returned expatriates take the literacy course in Kerala.

Expatriates from the Malabar region are less educated which hurts their career prospects, said Saleem Karuvampalam, special secretary, Kerala State Literacy Mission.

A 10-member delegation of the Kerala Education Department is meeting various Indian schools, community associations and Indian diplomats to push ahead with the literacy scheme.

Kerala State Education Department’s special secretary K D Govindan Kutty said in Dubai that the ten matriculation centres to be set up in the Gulf, is part of the state government’s plan to make all Keralites matriculates by 2017.

Examinations will be conducted in 10 Indian schools. Some Middle Eastern countries have made matriculation a basic qualification for issuing residence visas. As many of the examinees are above 50 years, special text books have been designed to prepare them for the examinations.

“We expect that the scheme will help many lower class Keralite expatriate workers in restaurants and cafeterias, salesmen in groceries, labourers, drivers and others who reached the UAE several years ago before completing their schooling,” said Punnakkan Mohammed Ali, president, Chiranthana Sasmakrika Vedi, which is participating in the schooling programme. “Many Keralite expatriate associations including Chiranthana Samskarika Vedi in the UAE have been demanding such a scheme.”

Committee Chairman Mohammed Ali, who is associated with the campaign, said various community associations will support the literacy drive by organising classes, sponsoring tuition fees and cost of text books. A registration fee of Dh100 will be charged from potential students.

Ibrahim Ilayettil, from the Kerala Muslim Cultural Center (KMCC), said it will coordinate with other community associations to start the registration process next month. While 60 per cent attendance in contact classes is compulsory back home, concession may be given to working students in the Gulf.

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