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Sunset starts Rita's working day

The sun is setting over Bangalore, but the roads of the southern Indian city are still busy with taxis and motorised rickshaws.

For Rita Samson, like many residents, the working day is just beginning.

The 49-year-old former headteacher walks into her bungalow from her spacious garden, dotted with banana plants and papayas, and makes herself a cup of Keralan coffee.

She then logs on to her computer, equipped with broadband, and puts on a headset so she can talk using voice-over-internet systems. At 9pm (3.30pm UK time) she sends an email to a pupil reminding him that they have a session that evening. Soon afterwards, the first lesson of her six-hour shift begins.

Mrs Samson provides tuition on English, social studies, history and geography, subjects she is well versed in as a former principal of the Bishop Cotton girls' school in Bangalore, which was established by British clergy in 1865.

In a typical session she might discuss George Orwell's Animal Farm with an 11-year-old pupil, or talk through an essay on the environment that a teenager has emailed her, discussing ways he could improve it.

"I've found the online tutoring really satisfying, because you can answer all the questions that a child may feel too shy or embarrassed to ask at school," she said.

"I wouldn't say it was very lucrative, but it means I can work from home.

It saves all the botheration of having to travel to a college and deal with all the traffic snarl-ups.

"The roads are always full of traffic - most of the nights are like day here," said Mrs Samson.

Bangalore, which has a population of more than six million, has gained a reputation as India's Silicon Valley because of its booming IT-related industries.

"In some cases there can be a little difficulty understanding what the children are saying," Mrs Samson said.

"But there is a lot of British culture in India and when there are differences in the curriculum I prepare for them - so most of the time it's not a problem."

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

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