KOCHI: Zeal and vision are two ingredients that make people achieve success. Fr Felix Chakkalakal is one such visionary. Coming from the backward community, he realised that information technology is a tool that can uplift the downtrodden.
And, for successfully putting it to use in furthering the educational needs of the backward community, he was recently awarded the Vidya Ratna Award constituted by The Economic For Health and Educational Growth.
Fr Felix's love affair with information technology dates back to the 2000s. "It has been 18 years since I first began working on my vision of making the people from the backward communities tech-savvy," says Fr Felix, who is the manager of St Paul's College at Kalamassery.
As part of his aim to acquaint the people living in the coastal region with information technology, he began three IT centres. "I started the first one in Vypeen. It was called VICIT. The second was started at Elamakara and was called the Maze. The final one was started at St Paul's College in Kalamassery. I realised to improve the living condition of the backward community, one needs to uplift their standard of living. This can be achieved only via IT," says the priest.
For him, Vypeen, the thickly populated island in Ernakulam district, posed a tempting challenge. "Vypeen, which has no access to nearly anything be it infrastructure, potable water or technology, caught my attention. I wanted to make 300 youngsters well-versed in IT every year. Not just the basic stuff, but on a professional level," he says.
The centre has been handed over to the archdiocese. "I have been lucky enough to get the backing of the Italian Bishops' Conference in setting up these centres," he adds. At the centre called Maze, Fr Felix insisted upon hands-on experience while helping locals get acquainted with the world of computers.
His dreams don't end here. He played the pivotal role in turning the once-descript campus of St Paul's College into a state-of-the-art campus. The college where over 1,500 students, all belonging to the backward community study, didn't have infrastructural facilities and was given the B grade by the NAAC. Fr Felix, who took over as the manager of the college in 2011, began his endeavour to change the image of the institution. "I began by bringing in the magic of IT. As the first step, the library was shifted to another building. One entire floor was dedicated to the paper-free library, which was funded by the Italian Bishops' Conference.
The computers, over a 100, were donated by Ibrahim Kunju," he says. Another important aspect that sets the library aside is that it is entirely powered by solar energy. "The project was funded by K V Thomas MP," he adds. However, in his drive to turn the campus into a digital one, he has not forgotten the allure of books. "An entire floor has been set aside for books in the library and there are over 10,000 of them," he says adding all this has worked towards pushing the college from a dismal B to NAAC's A grade.
Even the attendance system of the college is unique. "We have developed an app which has been downloaded on the teachers' mobiles. So there is no paperwork involved. The same is the case with the punching system for the teachers and other staff," he says.
Aiming high to attain the status of a deemed university and also to glean an A+ grade, Fr Felix has launched a variety of projects at the college, which has been given the ISO certification by the government. "An acoustic theatre is being built and also the smart classrooms are ready," he adds.