MORE than 72 per cent of the rural population is unable to make a decent living mainly because of the lack of regular employment and income generation. Creating gainful employment opportunities by linking agriculture and rural development with education and livelihood is the biggest challenge facing the community college movement. The emerging trend in areas of agriculture and rural development is to rise up to international standards and it has become necessary to harness the human resource and manpower potential of the rural community to meet this need.
A rural community college, it was felt, could fulfil the requirement of empowering the rural people through skills education for self-employment as well as through group employment. A rural community college essentially aims at building capacity; improving talents; tapping resources and potentialities; providing skills for self-employment; creating job opportunities; giving more field-oriented training with practical inputs; training rural youth in traditional sectors; enhancing collaboration between the government and the service sector; facilitating self-reliant initiatives; making interested youth upscale their education and skills; transforming the quality of life of the rural poor; initiating sustainable livelihood options for poverty alleviation; and empowering rural people through integrated development.
In this context, the opportunities for regular employment and income generation in rural areas can be grouped into on-farm and off-farm activities. Initially, agro-based activities cannot provide adequate opportunities for landless labourers. But, subsequently, with optimum use of resources and enhanced productivity, demand for labour will rise and even the landless labourers will have increased employment opportunities with improvement in agricultural productivity. Job opportunities for ancillary services will also increase and landless labourers will be able to take advantage of this situation. Based on the above rural development focus, two community colleges were started at Siruganur in Tamil Nadu and Lachragarh in Jharkhand.
The Ertram Rural Community College is situated at the Human Resource Development Training Centre of VOICE Trust at Siruganur village in Mannachanallur Block in Tiruchi. Siruganur is one of the 38 village panchayats of Mannachanallur Block. Voice Trust (Voice for the Oppressed through Integrated Community Emancipation) was registered in 1985 as a non-profit and voluntary organisation. The trust is involved in various social action initiatives for the disadvantaged groups, especially, women, children, landless and small farmers, unemployed youth, and the disabled, destitute and aged.
The Ertram College conducts diploma courses in sustainable farming systems for integrated rural development; pre-primary teacher training; house electrician; DTP operator; plumbing technology; fashion designing and garment making.