CHENNAI: Whom do you call an edupreneur? Someone who makes it big as an educationist perhaps? C Prema Kumar, correspondent, The Madras Seva Sadan schools and Lady Andal School in Chennai was conferred the Best Philanthropic Edupreneur in the South award by The Education Post, recently.
Chatting with CE over glasses of buttermilk to beat the heat at Lady Andal, she says, “You and I may have had parents who could help us with homework or teach us something new after school hours but what about first generation students? I want to help the poorest of the poor and make sure they get the life they deserve.”
The Madras Seva Sadan that was started by her aunt and uncle in 1928 became her ‘first love’ 39 years ago. Earlier, it was a set of four schools, one industrial school, the destitute home and orphanage, the vocational and rehabilitation centre and the working women’s hostel. She expanded the Sadan’s activities to include a creche, empowerment programmes, a learning centre for children with learning disabilities, an occupational therapy centre, and the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall — a state-of-the-art 1,200-seater auditorium and more.
Did you know that long before the midday meals scheme was launched, it was being followed at the Seva Sadan? “In the early days I would ask my friends to donate `250 every academic year for a child’s meal. I’m proud that now my students at Lady Andal hold fund-raising events to buy necessities for my Seva Sadan kids,” she smiles.
It’s not always about academics. She adds, “Some of our kids need to start earning while studying or in case they can’t finish graduation, they need some sort of support. We train in vocations like sewing and carpentry. There is also a Plan B.”
What are the roles of an edupreneur? “It all comes down to making sure that the students who step out of school are moulded into good human beings. We give them all the academic and value training possible and the best fruits reaped are by the students who leave with the words ‘I Can’,” says Prema.
More than 200 students with learning and physical disabilities study at Lady Andal School and Sir Mutha School. “It is important that they learn to move along with all others. Otherwise how will they understand what it means to fall in line unless they actually see a queue being formed by students? Same education, same recreational activities and values.”
Prema, in her late 60s, continues to be the philanthropic pioneer to educationists. Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao School was also given the award for The Best School in Chennai for scholastic activities.