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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

IDIA Sensitisation Program at Tumkur, Karnatka

We were quite a varied bunch that attended the IDIA sensitization projects in Tumkur, Karnataka. Conducting the programme along with students of the National law school of India, Bangalore (Adithya Banavar, Amshula Prakash and Aathira Menon), there were two students from engineering colleges- Balachandru and Brijesh. Prakruthi Gowda, who has recently graduated from NUJS Kolkata, had set up the programme in two colleges- Vidyavahini PUC College and Siddaganga PUC College for women.

The team arrived at Vidyavahini College on Tuesday morning around 10:00 where Prakruthi had spoken to the principal and made arrangements for two sessions. This was a co-educational institution with almost an equal ratio of boys to girls. Prakruthi suggested the session be conducted in Kannada, as it may be more effective then. Doubts were raised as to the need for students to comprehend an English presentation, as the aptitude test demanded a basic understanding of English. However a decision was made to conduct the session in Kannada and Prakruthi very effectively conducted all the sessions in Kannada.

We started the first session with a video clipping from an English television show (Just legal) in which a character gives an inspiring speech on the aim of law and about how law is about the truth but needs a lawyer to actually uphold and fight for it. We had hoped this speech would excite the students and perhaps get them interested in the option of choosing law as a career. However most of the students failed to grasp the American accent and the video clipping proved ineffective. Most of the students responded more favourably when asked about a Kannada television serial called Mukta Mukta about criminal law. The students were then asked if any of them had considered the legal profession as a career option and a few students seemed interested. Prakruthi then started the session by talking about what lawyers do and the diverse options one has after doing law.

We then showed the students some clippings of famous lawyers such as Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Jawaharlal Nehru, SM Krishna, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. The students however seemed most excited when told that Malavika Avinash, a Kannada television actress was a lawyer who had graduated from National Law School of India University. In fact there were more students who recognized Malavika than Obama.

Prakruthi then went on to discuss the various universities where one can pursue law and the advantage of pursuing it at one of the ten National Law schools in terms of better quality of education, Infrastructure and recruitment. The students were informed about the high pay packages given to students from law schools and campus placement. The fact that Prakruthi, who is from tumkur had managed to attend a national law school and be placed in a good job seemed to encourage them. After this details of the IDIA project were given. Students seemed apprehensive about the areas they would be tested on and their various doubts were cleared.

The second session at Vidyavahini was also conducted in a smooth manner. For this session we decided to scrap the Just legal video and merely concentrated on the presentation. Fewer students from this batch wanted to do law as they were science students and had decided to do engineering/medical. A few students also had decided to pursue agriculture as a degree course. However after the session a number of students registered their names for the aptitude test.

The next college we visited was Siddhaganga where there were three sessions. Initially, the principal was hesitant to let us address the science students as he believed that they would not be interested in law. As the Arts stream in this college was completely kannada medium we decided to concentrate on the commerce students. In the first session conducted for the commerce students, a number of them had decided to do CA or MBA and only one student had contemplated doing law. We also saw that when asked questions about law or any general questions only one or two students answered. They seemed much more comfortable when spoken to in Kannada than English though all of them knew English.

The only student who had decided to do law was planning on pursuing it in the local law college (Vidyodaya Law College). She seemed interested in the idea of National law schools and we told the students the advantages of pursuing law as a professional 5 year course in a National law school. The fact that students wanted to do CA or study in local colleges shows that they are unwilling to leave the town they are from. This may be due to parental pressure as they are girls and not expected to leave the town for higher education. In the next session, unknown to us, a number of first year students attended the session and were enthusiastic about pursuing law. It is a good idea for IDIA to inform students in 1st PU (or 11th std) about the possibility of law as a number of students in the 2nd PU have already decided what higher studies to pursue. At this stage they may already have enrolled for Engineering or other entrance exam coaching. The third session consisted of science students.

In the second and the third session we showed a video of the Kannada television show Mukta Mukta. Due to the bad picture quality, sound quality and other infrastructural difficulties, this video too seemed ineffective in inspiring the students. We stopped the video midway and focused on the presentation. Here we also recounted personal experiences of choosing law over engineering/medical/CA. This was a good idea as it encouraged the students to think of law as a viable option as opposed to a last resort. It is also a good idea to tell students of the various options they have after doing law and the importance of law in every field, be it IP or corporate. The most important consideration for these students seemed to be salary as opposed to social justice.

Post this session a few students came up to us and asked doubts individually as they were shy to raise these questions in front of the other students. There were also a few students from the Kannada medium who were keen on writing the test. A number of students also decided to give the test based on the reaction of their peers. Prakruthi also conducted two more sessions in Vidyavahini on Wednesday morning before the tests.

The tests in both the colleges saw a good turnout. Almost 150 (148 in all) students wrote the test in Siddhaganga and an overwhelming 244 students from Vidyavahini wrote the test. Almost all students managed to finish the test within the time provided but most of them seemed dissatisfied with it. A number of students from Siddhaganga also mentioned that the test was too tough. They wanted to use their calculators for the mathematics section in the paper and a number of them did not understand the questions in the personal information column (For eg: Students could not grasp the meaning of the question- Have you ever considered a legal career?). T

here were some positive responses though. One student from Vidyavahini asked a number of doubts and is from an economically backward background. The IDIA programme did manage to create awareness about law schools and we hope to conduct a similar session in the boys wing of the Siddaganga college soon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

IDIA Sensitisation Programme at Shanti Bhavan, Tamil Nadu

As part of the IDIA project- Karnataka chapter, a team of six students[1] visited Shanti Bhavan- a school in Baliganapalli, an impoverished area in the Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu that targets children of deprived backgrounds. A student of Shanti Bhavan, Rajini Murugeshjan, has made it into the National Law School of India University, Bangalore after writing CLAT 2010 and we were hoping to find more students who are interested in pursuing law as a career option.

Adithya Banavar started the session by talking a bit about the project to about 60 students from the 8th -12th grade and the option of law as a career option. Only one student from the 12th grade was interested in pursuing law. Most of the other students were either undecided or favoured Engineering or Business. A lot of students were apprehensive about law as they felt that belonging to a particular stream in the 12th grade would hinder their admission into law school.

After clearing their doubts we proceeded to perform a few skits on varied legal topics such as Constitutional law, Criminal law, Family law and Consumer Protection law. We saw that the children were well versed in English and basic legal knowledge, perhaps owing to the fact that they have learnt civics. They were confident and answered most questions and asked us intelligent questions on legal areas. We then interacted specifically with the 14 students belonging to the 12th grade who were giving the aptitude test. We saw that almost every student had decided which field to specialize in and the disinterest in law was not so much a result of ignorance but the perception of lawyers as being poorly paid. We spoke to them about the various advantages of doing law from a premier legal institution and the various career options one can pursue after doing the course. We also cleared doubts as to the age limit for the course.

We then conducted a 30 minute aptitude test which tested them on English, Mathematics, Logical reasoning, Legal reasoning and General knowledge.

Report prepared by Aathira Menon

[1] Adithya Banavar, Deepika Kinhal, Basavana Gowda, Nishita Vasan, Aathira Menon from NLSIU, Bangalore and Javedur Rahman from NUJS, Kolkata.