Preparing the next generation farmers through vocational education

Nikku Balaraju and Dharmana Tata Rao

The rural youth are increasingly migrating to urban centers in search of industrial jobs. Many are not skilled enough, thus, forced to take up low paid jobs under unhealthy working conditions. Villages have become a source of cheap labour to growing cities. Meanwhile, rural communities are deprived of the services of their youth. The present case study deals with the efforts taken by a formal school in training children in vocational skills. The school is situated in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, known for it’s cultural and economic backwardness in the state. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood of the people. The following case illustrates how vocationl education can inspire youth to derive livelihoods from farming.

The state government has introduced a policy in the year 1984-85 with an objective of introducing students to vocational skills. The idea was to help students develop an appreciation for productivity-based labour. The skills learnt along with the formal lessons were meant to help students in their daily life as well as choosing a career in a particular trade.

There are more than three hundred government run high schools in the district. Srimukhalingam Zilla Parishad High School (SML ZP High school) was one among the fifteen schools that was selected to introduce the vocational education for the students. SML ZP high school was established in 1964 and caters to about 20 villages around Srimukhalingam village. Since 1985, two vocational courses are being taught in the school – a) Electrical wiring and repair of electrical appliances and b) Farm machinery and repair of agriculture implements.

To understand the usefulness of the programme to the youth, about 30 students from the age group of 14-15 years were interviewed.  Information on their experiences, utility of the acquired skills, future plans, views on agriculture as their future occupation etc., were also elicited. Presented below are two cases describing how the programme has influenced them.

Case I

RamaRao Peddada is a young farmer aged 17 years from Karakavalasa village. Kalinga families, around 300,  constitute about half the total families of the village. The village inhabitants include small and marginal farmers, stone workers, shepherds and petty shop owners. The village is located between the river Vamshadhara and Padmanabha hills. During floods, there were huge losses in crop production. Normally, the youngsters in the village seek jobs in the army and defence services of the government and also non-formal jobs in the private sector.

Rama Rao studied in SML ZP high school located, 3 Kms away from the village, from class sixth to tenth. He attended the vocational course on Farm Machinery and repair of Agriculture Implements for three years i.e. from class eighth to tenth standard. He scored well in the vocational course though he could not clear the government conducted public exams of Class Tenth in the year 2002. He decided to help his father in the agriculture operations.

Rama Rao’s father owns two acres of wet and one acre of dry land. Traditionally, the wooden plough was being used for the farming operations and Ramarao thought of introducing the iron mold plough about which he learnt in the vocational classes. He discussed the idea with his father and was successful in persuading him. Ramarao contacted the vocational teacher and got the details of the iron-molded plough locally known as bhusunagali. He went to the nearby city and bought the plough which costed him about 250 rupees including travel. Today his father has also realized the usefulness of the plough and is proud of his son. He says the durability of iron-molded plough is about three times more than the wooden plough and hence the investment on ploughs has come down. Rama Rao says that he could save time for ploughing operations and at the same time found that it was less stressful on the animals. Today, in the village there are more than 30 such ploughs in use. He has many other plans about introducing different types of sprayers and also wants to buy a tractor.

In his words “ I liked the course very much. I have learnt the basics of repairs by learning how to handle different tools. I know how a sprayer or biogas plant works” However, he also comments that, the facilities in the school for vocational classes are inadequate. They do not have all the models for demonstration. The time duration of the vocational classes was also less. Most of the time these periods were allotted to teach other formal lessons. Finally, he says that he was happy to learn new skills, useful and relevant to his present occupation.

Case II

Pentayya, is a fifteen-year-old student from Karakavalsa village. He belongs to Konari community (shepherd) and is the youngest in the six member family. He was also a student of SML ZP high school. But he could neither find enough time for studies nor for play as he had to spend lots of time in collecting fuel wood in the nearby Padmanabha hills.

When he was taught about Gobar gas and it’s uses, as a part of the vocational course, he immediately related to his family needs. He desparately wanted such a plant for his family so that he could be spared some time to play with his friends. When he proposed this idea at home, his father was the first person to turn it down. But Pentayya did not give up. He convinced his father by saying that the time spent on collecting fuel wood was affecting his studies. He persuaded his father to agreed for the construction of a bio-gas plant. While the local government has given a subsidy of Rs.2500 towards raw materials and other instruments, the family contributed labour to the extent of Rs.1300. The family owned a pair of bullocks and two cows serving as a source of raw material for the bio-gas plant. Pentayya’s mother is happy as it reduced her workload drastically. Pentayya regularly maintains the burners and valves and undertakes small repairs. Pentayya is happy seeing his idea implemented. Pentayya now wants to learn more skills, especially in tractor repair. Unfortunately, the private school where he is continuing his studies, has no such facilities.

There are many such examples. Many of the students have become good technicians and settled in life with good earnings. For instance, Jagan Mohan from Nagarikatakam village learnt about different sprayers and nozzles in ninth standard and now earns by repairing sprayers in his village. Earlier they used to travel 30 kms to get them repaired. The girl students like Prasanthi, learnt how a washing machine, iron box, gaslight work, and is now able to carry out simple repairs on her own. Some students after completing the course, have taken up family agriculture.


As an occupation, agriculture seems to be considered of low esteem. Thus, young students are forced to choose other careers. There are not enough initiatives from the government to provide opportunity to learn vocational skills. Not only they  can be used in their daily life, but also helps in choosing alternative careers. Half hearted support to policies that encourage students to take up agriculture will not yield expected results. Too much focus on formal education alienates these youth from their traditional occupations forcing them to migrate to urban centers. The discussions with young students reveal that they are innovative and can be helpful if vocational skills are provided. The case studies present that young students see their future in agriculture related operations if proper guidance and opportunities are created at an young age.


We acknowledge the cooperation extended by Headmasters and the teachers of SML ZP high School,  Z.P High School and Vidhya Bharati Rural High School in Budithi. The discussions with them were very useful in presenting the ideas appearing in this paper.

 Nikku Balaraju, Doctoral Student with Wageningen University, the Netherlands and Founder President, Resource Educational Society, Budithi village, Srikakulam District 532 427, Andhra Pradesh, India. Email:

Dharmana Tata Rao, Vocational Course In charge and National Green Cops Teacher, Srimukhalingam Zilla Parishad Government High School, Srimukhalingam post, Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh.

Ph: 0091-8942-272603

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