Sivagangai: It’s Vijayadasami today and the urban elite take their toddlers to the nearest big temple to make those tiny tender fingers scrawl ‘aana’, ‘aavanna’, on grains of rice spread on silver plates to symbolise their aksharaabhyasa. There’ll be great cheering, photos taken and payasam fed in liberal helpings to the guests. The bewildered kid struggles to convey (s)he would rather get back quickly to play at home; luckily, that’s the age of pure innocence when the campus pressures, parents’ chiding and the ‘monstrous’ Neet are still far away.
In rural Devakottai some 50 km from here, headmaster Chockalingam decided he too must create some buzz for announcing the aksharaabhyasa to the newly enrolled class-one students at his government-aided ‘Chairman Vanickavasagam Middle School’. He got his teachers and students, along with a few parents, to take the nine newly enrolled children, including five girls, in a procession from a Mariamman temple to the school. The kids were garlanded by the temple priest and the teachers pooled in money for paying the nadaswaram-thavil players for the procession.
“We took the procession through the Dalit colony to create awareness about enrolment in school. There was much enthusiasm”, said the proud HM. Stating that the new students included four Dalits and two from the dhobi community, he said the school promoted egalitarianism among its students and staff while pursuing high goals in education despite heavy odds—such as lack of funds.
“Our children have participated in inter-school and inter-district competitions in sports and debates, and won many prizes. We have excellent teachers, who often volunteer not just time for extra coaching but also money from their frugal earnings to fund the students’ trips and extra-curricular activities such as field trips”, said Chockalingam.
Among his many initiatives to not only upgrade the students’ academic skills but also trigger their social commitment was the recent mock parliament election, where the kids went through the entire process of nominations, withdrawals and ballot papers and booths, after which the winners undertook tasks connected with the school’s general upkeep. “We make sure that all our kids partake their free mid-day meals at school. And our students of classes 7 and 8 parent the juniors to ensure they have their lunch without wasting food”, said the HM.
“We had a function recently to mark the completion of 52 weeks of showing to our students the Tamil version of the Cambridge University DVD dealing with interesting topics in mathematics, physics and chemistry enacted by popular Hollywood stars. The DVDs were gifted by the US-based World Tamil Foundation after assessment of the good work done here”, he said with justified pride....