Uma Muthuram, founder, Suyam Charitable Trust will be conferred with the ‘True Hero’ award in Mumbai today, for her efforts in teaching underprivileged kids. Along with her husband, she runs two schools in the city that teaches kids in a unique way.
CHENNAI: For the past 30 years, Uma Muthuram has been changing the lives of numerous underprivileged children in Chennai through the single-most important tool — education. With her husband Muthuram Narayanswami, she started the Suyam Charitable Trust in 1987 to help educate rescued street children.
Now, 30 years and over 1,500 successful children later, Uma is being felicitated with a ‘True Hero’ award under the initiative, #HelpingTrueHeroes, by Neurobion Forte (a vitamin brand from Merck) and The Better India (a tech-media platform), in a ceremony in Mumbai today; she is one among the four finalists selected across India.
Meeting us after admitting a few of her students in Tamil Nadu Sports University, she recalls her journey. “Right from when I was in Class 6, my mother, a teacher, would support slum children by giving tuitions, food and clothes. She dedicated 60 years of her life to educating them,” she says, adding that three generations of her family have been supporting the underprivileged.
When Uma finished Class 10, she too decided to spend her energy and knowledge to develop society, and not just her own family. To call her a graduate is an understatement because Uma has 10 post-graduate degrees under her belt. While pursuing these several courses, she would also do part-time activities to help any child in any way before setting up the trust.
The couple runs two schools — Siragu Montessori School started in 2003, at Palavedupettai village, which provides free education for children aged between 2 to 17 years, with a total strength of 500; and Bharathamatha Nursery and Primary School, mainly for children from the slums of Vyasarpadi. Along with
J Robinson, an education innovator, she has pioneered and patented innovative systems to inculcate earnestness toward education amongst even the most uninterested children from these slums.
“We have developed creative tools for children with learning disabilities who don’t show any interest in studying. We give them skills to come up in life though they don’t know to read and write,” she explains. Showing us one of their eight pattern notebooks, Robinson explains, “Instead of regular horizontal writing which is monotonous, these notebooks have patterns — spiral, vertical, zig-zag, etc.
The process of writing itself creates a certain interest in the student, as well as additional benefits,” he explains.
Vertical writing, for instance, necessitates the student to pause between each letter, thus ensuring correct spelling. Spiral writing develops hand-eye coordination; each pattern having its own purpose. The schools also follow concept-based education systems (using a singular concept, like agriculture, to teach all other subjects) and have also developed an innovative handwriting-art form — Icono-write.
She says the aim is to not only educate a child but also ensure they get a job. “We train our children in everything from language to personality development and give them the confidence to pursue their goals. Some are even training to join the IAS,” she says proudly.
Suyam Charitable Trust also works with several nomadic tribes in the State; giving them education, counselling, and appealing to the government for their basic rights. “There are many such nomadic groups – those who are begging, selling at signals, or those with the ‘boom boom maadu’. To give them some sort of permanence and identity is why we are working at educating them at all levels,” she explains.
About receiving the ‘True Hero’ award, she feels this is just an opportunity to let more people know about the importance of education. “It’s not like an award given to me but more like awareness given to people about underprivileged people. ‘Thank you’ is not enough, I can thank them only through my good work,” she says.
Suyam Charitable Trust needs volunteers to help support their schools. For details, call: 42826303