Three paternal cousins from Tamil Nadu have been honoured with the State School Education department's awards for headteachers/mistresses for registering the most students from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe in their schools, The New Indian Express reported.
The trio of S Arivazhagan, D Chandrasekar and M Jayaraj, who work at Muthuservamadam, Silambur, and Nagamangalam government high schools, respectively, have bagged the prizes in Ariyalur district. The awards come with a small cash incentive. While Arivazhagan has bagged the reward for the second consecutive year, the other two have won it for the first time.
Through their dedication, the educationists have made significant achievements in making a real difference to students. The cousins have been conducting awareness campaigns at various villages and at Dalit settlements from time to time.
"Being landless, many people belonging to SC/ST communities in the district migrate to Tiruppur to work as labourers. Some of them take their daughters with them for work to earn enough money for their marriages in the next few years. In such cases, we talk to them and explain the many benefits of education. Stopping them from taking their daughters along is beneficial in two ways — first, we would be preventing child labour, and second, we could boost girl children's education," they told The New Indian Express.
In the Muthuservamadam school in the Udayarpalayam education district, most of the students enrolled belong to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. The school has enrolled 143 SC/ST students, out of the total 171 students for the year 2020-21. The school's locality also plays a vital role in the enrolment, as more students from these communities seek admission if it is located near their habitation.
"Though the locality plays a role, the teachers take tremendous efforts in admitting and retaining them," said Arivazhagan.
They said a lot of efforts were made to make the villagers aware of the facilities the schools had to offer. As majority of the people residing nearby, these schools are economically weak, banners were put up at the entrance of every village informing people about various benefits.
"Most parents are unaware of the many schemes that government offers to students. Our teachers explain it to them. Also, medical check-up facility is available in schools wherein students' health is examined and remedies provided," Arivazhaga added.
Dalit Students' Enrolment
Chandrasekar is the headmaster of the Silambur government high school in Sendurai education district. In his school, a total of 81 students belong to the SC/ST community, out of the total 145 students enrolled in 2020-21.
"Many people from the area work in Tiruppur and Coimbatore. There are chances that their children's education may get affected. We approach such parents and ask them to leave their children in the care of their grandparents. Our teachers visit every street to spread the awareness campaign and to boost admissions," he told The New Indian Express.
Jayaraj, the third cousin among the trio, headmaster of Nagamangalam government high school, has registered as many as 141 SC/ST kids of the total 342 in his school, with the help of the teachers' efforts.
"Our school now has a better infrastructure on par with private schools. Four of the seven classrooms are smart classrooms. We have science and computer labs. We explain the facilities to the students of the nearby panchayat union primary schools. When parents are told that our school has an English medium instruction facility, a few of them transferred their children from private schools to ours," he said.
Jayaraj said that besides formal education, his school pays equal attention to extracurricular activities. "Like, for example, during the parents' teachers meet, we play video games using projectors. Also, we make them aware of the facilities and government schemes in a playful method," he said.
Arivazhagan said that teachers often tell moral stories that emphasise unity among people to create a favourable environment for kids in school campuses.
All the three affirmed to get rewards for the 2021-22 academic year as well. Admissions are currently underway for the same.
Earlier this month, six government school teachers from Tamil Nadu were also selected for the National ICT Awards given by the Central Institute of Educational Technology, NCERT, New Delhi, for 2018 and 2019. The awards are presented to motivate teachers to use ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in school education and their classrooms largely.