Students going to school or college is routine, but a 60 year old senior citizen running to a class, books in hand, does kindle some curiosity among onlookers. Like him there are nearly 200 and odd students from 27 years to 75 years who have enlisted for a three year open and distance education course called Bachelor of Farm Technology (BFT) at the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore.
The course, a six semester schedule, is the brainwave of the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Murugesa Boopathi. Personal experience “Even 10th class school dropouts doing farming in Israel are brilliant. They speak on issues that our PhD scholars are working on. My personal experience during travel made me think of introducing a new course that benefits both the farmer and those desirous of entering farming as a vocation. “Days of planning and discussion among our people resulted in introducing this course that seems to be very popular,” says Dr. Boopathi. This unique course is the first of its kind for any State agricultural university and was introduced in November 2010. Popular course After nearly six months, it turned out to be a much sought after study among retired officials, young entrepreneurs, sales persons, and businessmen, according to Dr. V. Valluvaparidasan, Director, Open and Distance Learning (ODL). “Today, our course draws students from different age groups and from diverse backgrounds.
All share one common dream – to make a difference as a farmer in agriculture,” he says. An 80-year-old farmer, Mr. Anbu Sundaranand from Thirumalayampalayam near Coimbatore, is the oldest student. Better informed “I chose to join this course even after 70 years of farming experience. There seems to be a lot of difference between what I did in the past and what I should do now. I am now able to do farming more precisely as I am equipped with scientific knowledge and guidelines from an expert. I firmly believe that farmers must become aware about the new technologies,” he says. There is a lot of difference between teaching students and farmers. “The older and experienced students, the more pre-determined is the mindset and it takes some time for them to agree on certain things. But we enjoy teaching them because they are eager to learn,” adds Dr. Valluvaparidasan. Dr. K. Singaravelu a retired income tax, official says that before he joined this course he did not know anything about farming. Why the losses “I am now in the second semester and already I am able to understand certain details about why farmers face losses.” “Though many of us may be employed in private jobs, our parents, and brothers are still into agriculture.
Given a choice we do not want to move away from farming. Being a student of this curriculum now, I am able to ask questions to my labourers about the seeds, inputs and more importantly about the marketing facilities. I no longer simply nod my head for everything they say,” says R. Saravanakumar, a business executive who joined the course recently. According to Dr. Boopathi, there is no age limit for those desirous of joining this study.
A minimum pass percentage in the 10th standard is the eligibility for applying. The course aims to create awareness among people about the many new technologies, crop growing, inputs and subsidies that the Government offers to farmers. In fact there is one paper in the last semester that deals with effective management of labour. Lot of enquiries “This year our University is being flooded with number of enquires about the course. Friends of present students also want to join. We feel immensely happy that we are able to bridge the communication and knowledge gap that existed between farmers and those interested in the sector by this new course,” says Dr. Boopathi.