For Ushadevi and Manju and a dozen other housewives whose children study at Thonnakkal Government LP School, the days are not divided into time periods when their children are with them and when they are at school. A few hours every day, they get to spend a few hours at their children’s school too, learning tailoring.
What is unique about this learning process is that it evolves into a mutually benefiting scheme for these women as well as the students of the school. The women who graduate to become tailors will get to stitch the uniforms of the whole lot of students at the school. The students, in turn, get their uniforms stitched at half the rate than when stitched by other tailoring units.
Aptly named ‘Kaithangu’, the programme is funded by the city-based GG Charitable Trust and the PTA of the school. These ‘mothers’ are taught the basics of tailoring by a young and bubbly teacher Deepa, a native of Attingal who moved to Thonnakkal after her marriage.
Deepa gets a fixed salary from the GG Trust, while her students pitch in with whatever they can as ‘guru dakshina’. She teaches them how to stitch a whole lot of garments right from skirts, blouses, churidars, shirts and pants.
While all of Deepa’s students are excited about learning to stitch saree blouses and churidars, Deepa cleverly guides them back to the main objective of the Kaithangu scheme - uniforms. Uniforms, not just for their own children, but for every child in the school.
‘’The usual stitching rate for a uniform set varies from Rs 200 to Rs 250. But here we hope to do it for much less. The women are now being trained in such a way that they will be confident by the time school closes in March,’’ said Deepa.
What is more, each student will be given a sewing machine and a full set of accessories such as measuring tape, textile scissors and so on, on a loan which they will have to repay on a monthly basis.
‘’The total expense comes to Rs 5,550, which will have to be repaid in about 24 instalments. But the monthly EMI is very low, just Rs 250, which they can easily repay. Once they start out on their own, they would make at least Rs 750 per month. So the repayment would not become a problem,’’ said school PTA president R Rajasekharan Nair. Not just the PTA president, school principal Laila Beevi and all the tailoring students are confident about this.
Unlike the regular school students, these students of tailoring come in different batches to the school right from 10 am to 4 pm for the two-hour classes. ‘’All of us prefer the afternoon classes because then we get to pick up our children and go home,’’ said Manju, mother of Athulya and Ananya, studying in classes 1 and 3 respectively.
This tiled village school, painted in fluorescent shades of green, pink, lilac and orange, is not the only school to have such a programme. GG Trust, on it own, runs such classes on government school campuses at Fort, Kadakam, Puravoor, Thalayal, Poovanuthumoodu, Kanyakulangara, Thonakkal, Mangalapuram and Edavilakom and in collaboration with NGOs at six other locations.