Redefining 'community'
Melwyn Lobo S J, Sept 8, 2015, DHNS

Jacintha would not have been pursuing her BCom today, had she not been at St Joseph’s Community College (SJCC) in Bengaluru. Jacintha came to SJCC in 2010. Hailing from Begur in Bengaluru rural district, she had no clue as to what awaited her after SSLC.

Through the guidance of the local church priest, she along with her nine friends, landed up at SJCC. Jacintha had a surprise as her talents were well-recognised. Not only was she trained in English and Computers, but also in swimming, a skill dear to her heart.

Her aquatic talents caught the attention of Swim Life Academy, Bengaluru which picked her up as a coach. It transformed her life like never before. Jacintha now could stand on her own feet and earn her living. Along with her role as a coach, she pursued her PU and graduation. Now, besides being a swim coach she dreams of working in a big company in Bengaluru.

Nithesh, who came from a poor fishing hamlet of the coastal belt of Karwar, never dreamt that he would one day be working in ITC Gardenia, an international hotel in Bengaluru. Though he had done his ITI (an industrial training course), he was still hunting for a job. He chanced upon some information about SJCC and joined the college to pursue a course in Hotel Management. Soon he was picked up through the campus recruitment to be employed in ITC Gardenia. A year has passed, and Nithesh has not looked back since and is confident of a great career ahead.

These are but a few transforming life stories that have emerged out of SJCC, which recently celebrated its decennial anniversary. However, there are many who do not know what a community college is all about.

The definition
The concept of Community College is an American invention that began 100 years ago, putting publicly funded higher education at close-to-home facilities. In India, the Community College movement started in 1995. It aims at the empowerment of the disadvantaged through appropriate skill development, leading to gainful employment in collaboration with the local industrial establishments.

The key aspects of the Community College system are access, flexibility, cost effectiveness and equal opportunity. There are two types of community colleges in India. One is the NGO Community College which is in existence for the last 20 years. The other is the UGC-approved Community College which began in 2013. Community colleges offer three or six months’ certificate courses, one-year diploma or two-year advanced diploma in any employable skills.

SJCC was started in 2005 and is presently housed at St Joseph’s Indian Institutions in Bengaluru. The College was started mostly to cater to the semi-educated and school dropout youths, in the slums of Bengaluru and in the remote parts of Karnataka, who were struggling to gain a livelihood. For the last ten years, the college has trained more than 1,300 students from various disadvantaged sections of the society in various skills such as hospitality, retail, beauty care, office management, basic computer skills, desktop publishing, photography and videography, spoken English, web designing, hotel management, mobile services, business process outsourcing and information technology enabled services (ITES). The College has enabled them to find jobs in various industries and companies. Among the students trained, most of them are well placed in different industries and companies.

In 2013, SJCC got recognition from the University Grants Commission (UGC) under the Community College Scheme. The College was the brainchild of Fr Francis Guntipilly, a Jesuit priest. He had seen the plight of the dropout and semi-educated youth in rural areas as well as in the slums of Bengaluru. He felt that a small intervention by equipping them with skills and giving them jobs would give them better livelihood options. Thus was born SJCC.

Fr Guntipilly worked tirelessly for eight years, building and shaping the College, until he handed over the charge to the next director. In the last two years, SJCC has taken a new shape in terms of establishing new courses with practical curriculum, better infrastructure and hostel facilities, thus attracting more students.

The College has become a beacon of hope to the struggling youth of the disadvantaged sections. When education has become increasingly commercialised, it is heartening to see that SJCC is offering skill training by charging a nominal fee. Moreover, it is further encouraging to see the poor finding their livelihood and shaping their lives.

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