‘I am Doctor Sathya Selvaraj’ and ‘I am IAS officer Kaviya Sankar’ is how friends and students of Class 9, now promoted to Class 10, introduce themselves.
The children, who were part of a recently-concluded summer camp for Irula tribals in Tiruvallur, were so motivated by all the activities over the past six months of the Siragugal 100 programme that they now believe they can achieve their aim in life.
“On the first day of the camp, the Collector Alby John Varghese came and spoke with us. He asked us what we wanted to become in life and after listening to him, we believe that ‘we can’. We will study hard. During the camp, we addressed each other as ‘Collector Deepa’, ‘Volleyball Akash’ and so on,” said Sathya Selvaraj who studies in the Government Girls Schools in Arani.
Kaviya Sankar of Seenikuppam made it to the summer camp only in the last minute and that too after the head master of the school convincing her parents that she would be safe and would benefit immensely from the training in out-door camping, learning art and craft and learning to dance Kummiattam and Oyilattam among other skills.
“We learnt about laws related to children and now know that child marriage is wrong and that all children should go to school. Because I attended the camp, four more children from my community too came,” said this daughter of a daily wage labourer.
N. Poobalamurugan and H. Bhavani, coordinators of the Siragugal 100 programme, said that the children really enjoyed themselves during the camp. The talks by teachers, IAS and IPS officers, and visits to places including Sriharikota, brought real change in children’ s outlook. “They are no longer shy and speak when spoken to,” he said.
District Collector Mr. Verghese said the district had a lot of tribal children, but not many of them reached even up to Plus 2, which was very unfortunate. “Child marriages and school drop outs are very high among the tribals, especially the Irulas. We wanted to see if we can do some kind of intervention to bring about change in the communities. Education always helps in such situation. We have provided them with tabs, courtesy of Sunil Paliwal, chairman, Kamarajar Port. We will be teaching them English and mathematics after school and continue to monitor them. Another batch of 100 students from these communities will be chosen to undergo similar training,” he said.