Students, faculty reach rural youth by radio

Matters India reporter

Darjeeling: A college in Darjeeling hills has come up with student and faculty teams reaching out to rural youth with higher education opportunities.

In a rare case of hands on radio production by any college in Bengal and entire 8 states of northeast India, 80 year old Salesian College Sonada (SCS) situated in Gorabari village on National Highway 55 at an altitude of 6,500 feet above sea level boasts of running a community radio station 12 hours each day.

“Here at Radio Salesian we offer students, faculty, and local people opportunity to create their own programmes both social and academic, intellectual and entertaining, so that the accumulated knowledge trickles down to the semi-literate rural masses of the tea gardens,” says SCS Principal Dr George Thadathil.

One of the first year Journalism & Mass Communication students Dikshit Tamang who got himself trained as Radio Journalist during two-month break awaiting college admission, hosts his two-hour weekly radio show entitled Yuva Awaaz (Youth Voice). From the time he joined SCS, he hosts and packages his own weekly show with help available on campus.

Seizing the opportunity for radio ministry a group of three Nepali Brothers of Darjeeling diocese who attended a three-day hands on media workshop at Salesian College last January create their own youth segment in Tamang’s show since February 2018.

I caught up with Brothers Silash Lepcha, Alphonse Ghimiray and Binai Chettri on a Saturday morning in the Radio Salesian studio while they were recording their segment entitled Prerak Prasanga – Inspirational / Motivational Talk – a 15 minute segment within Yuva Awaaz.

The first year Philosophy students were narrating the Biblical story of David and Goliath and encouraging young people to have self confidence and to believe in one self.

“We see young people lacking self confidence and belief in themselves,” says team leader Brother Silash who goes to Upper Balasun youth centre some two hours down-hill walk from the college each Sunday.

His batchmate Brother Alphonse Ghimiray who goes to Mamring youth centre is of the opinion that “we need to engage rural youth in radio programming, so that their voice too could be heard.”

Brother Binai Chettri who goes to Rangmuk youth centre some 90 minutes walk from college laments saying, “college students and young people do not exploit the opportunities for radio ministry we have in the college.”

Radio Show host Dikshit Tamang reminds the Brothers of the ground rules in community radio programming, “no politics and no religion hard sell.”

This year for May-June admission season in the college, each of 12 departments, has prepared their radio talk shows highlighting the advantages of pursuing studies in the particular department.

“Besides being a sort of career guidance, each half hour program throws light on 3-year course content as well as job and higher education opportunities,” says Head of English Department Assistant Professor Bedika Rai.

Assistant Professor Privat Giri of Mass Communication department waxes eloquent on the advantages of pursuing BA Honours degree at Salesian College Sonada which boasts of a professional radio station. The college has plans to start on-line television broadcast station shortly.

Meanwhile, Head of Computer Science Department Assistant Professor Bryan Kerr and HoD of Sociology Assistant Prof Sumina Chettri have been hosting their weekend show entitled Unplugged and Stories Behind Music – the popular and only English language program since December 2016.

The government of India had issued guidelines in 2003 for educational institutions to set up campus radios and Anna University in Tamil Nadu was the first to start one in February 2004. Today there are over 100 campus radios in the country, but the actual number could be higher since there are no details about these in the northeast beyond Guwahati.

Campus radio (also known as college radio, university radio or student radio) is a type of radio station that is run by the students of a college, university or other educational institution. Programming may be exclusively by students, or may include programmers from the wider community in which the radio station is based.

Sometimes campus radio stations are operated for the purpose of training professional radio personnel, sometimes with the aim of broadcasting educational programming, while other radio stations exist to provide an alternative to commercial broadcasting or government broadcasters.

The campus radio station could cost about Rs.15 lakh (1.5 million rupees) and typically operates out of a room that can seat three to four people and the attendant equipment. Its range is 8-10 km and can even go up to 15 km. END

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