This is the story of Marthal and many other children like her who blossomed with the right amount of encouragement and involvement in their lives. As she prepares for the Indian Administrative Services, she goes back to the time she thought it was not possible to even complete her education.
Coming from one of the Dalit families in the urban slum pockets of Vyasaradi in Chennai, Marthal’s father is a tailor and the only earning member of the family. Her mother is a home maker. As this is common for many children in this county, Marthal dropped out of school when she was in Class 8, owing not only to extremely poor infrastructural facilities but also to terrible verbal abuse by the teachers. The school did not have a single proper, safe and hygienic toilet for the girls. Neither did it have water facilities. Added to that, Marthal was regularly mocked by her teacher for being a slum dweller. It was at this point in time that Slum Children’s Sports Talent Education Society (SCSTEDS), a project supported by CRY – Child Rights and You, intervened.
When the project staff of SCSTEDS noticed that Marthal had stopped going to school, they immediately started motivating her to continue her education. Regular counselling for her parents ensured that they supported her in her quest. When her parents raised the issue of lack of infrastructure, and the behaviour of the teacher , the organisation immediately initiated a dialogue with the Head Master in order to put things in place. The teachers were sensitised through regular awareness and capacity building programs. Infrastructural facilities were sanctioned through intensive advocacy efforts. Marthal was re-enrolled into the school within a month’s time.
She was also engaged in football as part of the intervention program. The sport not only kept her fit and spirited, but it also gave her the much-needed confidence to face life positively. She also found her interest back towards education. With constant encouragement from the team, her peers and family, she not only excelled in football, but also in studies. She started playing various competitive football matches, she passed her Higher Secondary Examinations with flying colours, and outdid everyone’s expectations of her.
“I prepared for my IAS examinations while I was pursuing my Bachelors in Commerce. Football has not only helped me in making a huge number of very encouraging friends, but it has also helped in building my concentration to a large extent. So preparing for both examinations was not that tough. I have already cleared the prelims for IAS. I never thought I could come so far, but now that I have, I will definitely give it my best shot to make the most of the opportunity,” says a calm and confident Marthal.
Today Marthal coaches students of Class 10 and Class 12 to fare well in their board examinations. She wants to make sure that every child in her slum gets the opportunity to dream big, like her. At 21, she is preparing for her IAS main examinations facing, while teaching and inspiring others to do the same.
CRY and SCSTEDS have been working in Vyasarpadi since 2006. The project aims at using the game of football to positively channelise the energy of the children in urban slums. The thrust of the interventions since the beginning has resulted in an increasing participation of the children and the youth, for the development of the slums. The organisation has been mobilising the community, and especially the youth to fight against the social and economic discriminations they face.
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