Happy to be back in school
By Sangeetha Rajeesh
On the black board is a drawing of a little girl with pigtails by 10-year-old Madhivanan. “That’s my younger sister Nandini,” says a proud Madhivanan. Nine-year-old Kannapan who sits next to Madhivanan, is the youngest of 13 siblings. His father led a nomadic life, earning his living with his decorated holy cow and pipe. “I used to go with my dad, house to house and would bring back rice, vegetables or clothes given by the villagers,” recalls Kannapan. “And so, when by father died, I was forced to leave school to help ends meet.”
When the Village Planning facilitators found Kannapan, he was not just a school drop-out but was also suffering from Hydrasil. After a prolonged motivation by the volunteers, Kannapan was enrolled in an NCLP school. The District Collector arranged for his treatment and his mother was given a Widows’ Pension.
“Kannapan is a very talented child,” voices Chitra, his teacher. “He plays lovely melodies on his pipe and is a good carom-board player.” Kannapan tells us that he loves to learn the Tamil language and enjoys doing needlework. He is not the only one in the class who is happy to back at school.
Vijayan dropped out of school after Class 5. “My father was a daily wage labourer but after his death, my mother is not able to feed all of us,” he explains. Vijayan comes from a family of six children and with his mother’s meagre earnings of Rs 45 per day (US$ 1), the family finds it hard to make ends meet. “My father left a large debt for us to clear, I had no choice but to leave school and join my brothers and sister in rag-picking,” Vijayan tells us. “The boy has a natural affinity towards electrical appliances and has made many contraptions,” teacher Chitra says proudly. The UNICEF-led village planning facilitators identified and persuaded his mother to enrol the boy in the NCLP school. With the Widows Pension extended to his mother, Vijayan is in school now.
Dr. Santhosh Babu, the District Collector of Krishnagiri has developed a software to track and monitor children who have dropped out of school. “I call it the ‘Back2School’ project, which gives a clear indication of why the child is out of school and what is needed to get the child back into school,” he says. “According to me, every child out of school is a child labourer and my intention is to ensure that every child receives an education” says he.
Under the integrated village planning scheme, facilitators identified 18 school drop-outs in the Madhinayanapalli village of Krishnagiri and today all the 18 children attend the newly inaugurated NCLP school in the village.
“This was a very difficult task,” S Muruganandham, village planning facilitator tells us, “because 90% of the children had never been to a school.” The enrolment of the all the 18 identified took nearly 18 months after the intervention of the district collector and the panchayat raj institutions (PRI).
The children are engrossed in a math class, repeating after their teacher, Indumathi. “We have a mix of age groups and I have to start from scratch,” she explains. Nevertheless, are the children happy to go to school? “Yes, we are happy to be in school,” the children shout in unison amid giggles.