Skilling tribal youth to save lives

Skilling tribal youth to save lives

Nestled in the interiors of Andhra Pradesh, Rampachodavaram is a sleepy, little pocket that calls itself home to the Giri tribe For the young tribal...

Nestled in the interiors of Andhra Pradesh, Rampachodavaram is a sleepy, little pocket that calls itself home to the Giri tribe. For the young tribal students here, employment opportunities are far and few between. But, when Jyothi Harshitha dreamt of donning a white apron and handling a stethoscope, little did she know that some dreams do come true. She isn’t the only one. More than 10 tribal students from Rampachodavaram are busy embracing a life that lets them realise their dreams of working in the medical field. They are now all set to work with corporate hospitals in Hyderabad in the domain of allied health services, some of them, succeeding in their very first interview!

The energy of these students is contagious. Their zeal to learn something new and apply it in a real-life situation is perhaps what led to the launch of the Giri Vidya Nipuna Kendram, a remarkable effort of the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) in Rampachodavaram in association with Dr Reddy’s Foundation, the knowledge partner. This project is a High-Quality Healthcare Skilling Programme that intends to capture the huge demand for skilled healthcare professionals in Andhra Pradesh through two courses - Emergency Medical Training (EMT) and Patient Care Assistance (PCA). The first batch was almost full capacity, with 57 students set to make their mark in the medical field.

High-Quality Healthcare Skilling - The Experience:
When Nageshwar Rao, a student of the Emergency Medical Training, saw his neighbour succumb to an asthma attack, he knew how important basic life-saving techniques are. He has enrolled himself in this healthcare skilling programme so that nobody dies due to lack of immediate healthcare. He says, “After coming here, I have understood that healthcare needs to begin as soon as a patient feels sick. If time is lost while transferring a patient from their location to the nearest healthcare centre available, the risk of death often increases.” That holds true in a place like Rampachodavaram, where medical facilities are at the bare minimum and advanced facilities are not easily accessible. This course has enabled him to identify the emergency, help the patient with basic life-saving techniques and hand the patient safely over to a doctor. But, that’s not all. He says he has become more confident after the course and looks forward to taking up a role with a big corporate hospital in Hyderabad.

For Vijaya Sindhura, another EMT student, education was never a problem. With a B Pharm in hand, she wasn’t quite satisfied, because she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and understood that helping save lives is the best way to go about it. That’s why, as soon as she learnt that the ITDA had launched two healthcare skilling courses, she jumped at the opportunity. “I feel like a doctor as soon as I wear the white coat, doing just what I had always dreamt of. This is a great opportunity for me as not just does this ensure that I will get a good job and do my family proud, it will also help me take care of people here in Rampachodavaram. Snake bites, malaria and typhoid are very common here and with the help of things that I have learnt here, I will not just lend immediate medical help, but will also be able to create awareness.”

Just like Nageshwar Rao and Vijaya Sindhura, the other tribal students at the Youth Training Centre (YTC), Rampachodavaram are glad that the ITDA and Dr Reddy’s Foundation have come up with this initiative.

Home away from home
When you enter the Youth Training Centre at Rampachodavaram, you wouldn’t expect much. But be prepared to be amazed by what’s in store at the labs where these young tribal students apply their classroom learning. ‘State-of-the-art’ fails to do justice to the labs that have been installed. It’s just like walking into a hospital - minus all the hustle and bustle, of course. Right from the patient mannequins that feel life-like, to the stretchers and beds and even the medical equipment (all sourced from Bangalore, Hyderabad and even China!) - everything has been put together in a way that when these students step into a real hospital, they settle in with ease and familiarity. The labs form one portion of their learning. The real heroes of this skilling programme are the trainers, who are from Vizag and Hyderabad. For them, the charms and facilities of city life fail to provide what they get at the YTC - the satisfaction of playing a role in shaping young lives.

T Nagamani, the trainer for Emergency Medical Training has seen and taken part in many skilling programmes in the past 11 years but says this one is special. “Before coming here, I knew there would be a lot of challenges. Convincing my family was tough, and being here, with connectivity issues and lack of entertainment did put me on the edge. Yet, to be associated with a brand like Dr Reddy’s and to be a part of such a wonderful initiative gave me the push I needed.”

Technical trainer G Sony says, “We don’t grow if we draw a circle around us. I wanted to erase all these circles around me to experience this programme. Being away from family and comforts that city life gives is tough but being here is worth it.” Communications trainer Mounica Rajputhra, from Loyola College in Hyderabad, does miss being in Hyderabad, sipping delectable coffee at her favourite hangout places, yet, has one simple goal - to be at Rampachodavaram till the skilling project continues. Centre Manager K Harika, who has left her 10-year-old son behind, echoes the same thoughts. They have made themselves comfortable at this little pocket, showing us that despite all odds, motivation proves to be the game changer.

Healthcare skilling- The need
Despite many young students opting to take medicine in the quest to become doctors, the gaps in the healthcare sector are alarming. It isn’t a matter of surprise that the Indian healthcare sector is booming and looking at touching 280 billion dollars by 2020. But, the lack of allied health professionals or AHPs is preventing the efficient functioning of the system.

If one had to get down to number crunching, then it’s estimated that to fill these gaps, India requires at least 65 lakh AHPs. With these kinds of numbers indicating a major lag, the ITDA identified health care skilling as a possible employment avenue for the tribal youth. The ITDA has always taken innovative steps to ensure that the tribal youth get enough opportunities to tap their skills and earn a decent livelihood. That’s one of the reasons why they joined hands with Dr Reddy’s Foundation, to lay the base for this pilot programme.

Walking the extra mile
One of the reasons for this project to become a success is the involvement demonstrated by the Project Officer, ITDA, Nishant Kumar (IAS). Right from taking the broom and cleaning the dirty toilets of schools in Rampachodavaram to ensuring a personal touch in every single activity undertaken by the ITDA, Nishant Kumar has dedicated his service to the welfare of the tribal people.

Facing several challenges like extremism and infrastructure issues, mobilisation of the students hasn’t been a cakewalk either. With his eyes set on ensuring respectable employment opportunities for the tribal youth, Nishant

- Parvathy Gopalakrishnan

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