Thursday, June 05, 2008

Patwa Toli

In the last 10 years, 25 students from the nondescript hamlet have got into various Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and 75 have entered Regional Engineering Colleges, now known as National Institutes of Technology.No less than eight boys from Patwa Toli, a non-descript locality on the north eastern end of the Gaya municipal area have made it to the IIT this year.The boys, all of them who belong to the small weaving community known as Patwas, have been doing consistently well at the IIT and other state-level engineering entrance tests for several years now. The Patwas, comprising about 900 families of traditional weavers.Till about a decade back, the Gaya Patwas were regarded as one of the most educationally backward communities engaged in weaving from an early age to earn their bread.But now the boys have started weaving a new dream, which, besides promising to change the fortune of the hard-pressed Patwas, have given them a new enviable status as about 30 boys from the community make it to the engineering colleges, including the prestigious IITs, each year.The process began in 1991, when Jitendra Kumar became the first Patwa to make it to the IIT.Jitendra Kumar, son of Thakur Prasad, was the one who wove the 'engineering dream' in the village. He wrote the 1991 entrance
examination and got admission at Banaras Hindu University, whose Institute of Technology is one of the eight IITs. When he came back to the village, he urged the villagers to motivate their children to become engineers.Kumar is now working at PricewaterhouseCoopers-Global, a software consultancy in New Jersey, USA. While studying for his engineering degree, he used to assemble young students of the village near the Durgasthan(mandir) to teach them learning skills and the way to write exams. He proved to be a big inspiration. In 1997, 13 boys got into IITs and 53 entered various Regional Engineering Colleges.Before he left for the United States in 1997, Kumar set up several study centres at the village to train aspirant engineers.The IIT grad set up an association Nav Prayas in 1999 motivate the youth of the village. It organises debates and seminars, and conducts talent search examinations to identify students with aptitude. The candidates selected are divided into groups and given training. Villagers have chipped in by offering rooms in their houses to conduct study centres. Now this is a village which is passionate about education; almost obsessed with it. Children of many weavers are now holding important posts in government agencies like the Defence Research and Development Organisation and top-notch software companies like Wipro and Infosys. Some have landed jobs in USA.

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