After eight months since we opened the Tuition Center with Save International, for Irula and Dalit children of Panjartheerthi, we now need to improve children attendance at school: to convince the about 30 children to go to school regularly is the aim of this project.
We recently met the Head Teacher of the local school and she is desperate to improve attendance. In order to keep the school open she needs at least 20 children but despite the 35 children enrolled this year (31 of which are Irula), there are only very few children at school when there is a government inspection. She says the children do not come school, often she goes to look for them around the village in the morning. She finds that the children are often not clean and are hungry, sometime away with their parent when they find jobs away from the village. Conditions in the village are very basic.
It is interesting that most of the children do come to the existing Tuition Center regularly, perhaps this is because of the daily snack we offer? What else we can offer to encourage better school attendance and improve the lives of these children and their families?
We thought that if we offer a place where children can come in the morning, get washed, have clean school uniform and a good breakfast, this may help. Obviously this service will be for the children who do really go to school. We met with the families, parents and children and they agreed to try this service.
Luckily we soon found a small house to rent very near the Irula village, with a kitchen, bathroom, store room and a small terrace in front of the house where the children can sit and eat. We hired two young women from the same community, one to cook and the other will help the children to wash and dress, both will wash all the school uniforms.
On November 17th we started with 26 children attending the first day. After two weeks the project is a great success. The Head Teacher can hardly believe such a quick change to school attendance.
Also because the house is so close to the village we decided to use it to run the afternoon tuition session. We hired a new teacher, Mrs Rajeshwari, and left the other teacher, Megala, to continue with the Dallit children at the other building. The Head teacher, cook, other helper and tuition teacher will work together as a team to provide the service and check the attendance at breakfast and afternoon tuition also match with the daily attendance at school. Our hope is that this service for school children will greatly improve the lives of the families in the Irula community and help them continue to develop new opportunities.