ERODE: Nestled in the western hills of Burgur in Erode, Kongadai ST colony is seeing better times, thanks to timely help from 75-year-old Sadaiyan, who donated his two acres of land to build a school.
Until 2010, the village, rampant with child labour, did not have a school. It was through the donation of Sadaiyan, uneducated himself, that a school could finally be constructed for children rescued from child labour by an NGO called Sudar. Sudar, which works for the education of tribal students, had decided to set one up under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) scheme after 40 students were rescued from child labour.
The facility was meant to be a bridge-school for students before they joined mainstream education. But till Sadaiyan stepped in, the children had no option but to study at a house in the village. With more children being rescued from child labour and starting their studies, the house could no longer accommodate them. The classes had to shift outdoors under a huge banyan tree. When it rained, they moved to a temple shed.
It was then that a few philanthropists, who had come to distribute clothes to the children, noticed the need for a building and offered to donate. The next step was to find a suitable land. When the organisation was discussing the matter, Sadaiyan volunteered to donate his own land. “I am not educated. My children also couldn’t go to school because of lack of facilities here, in the village. At least the next generation can study,” he said.
Thereafter, it hardly took a couple of years and Rs 3 lakh for the building to come up. “We have decided to build Sadaiyan an eco-friendly house as he lives in a small hut on his land. We also have a plan to felicitate him,” said Natraj, director of Sudar.
All said and done, lack of transport surely stands out as the major difficulty for the village’s residents now. It was in 2018 that Chinna Kannan, a child rescued from labour and educated at the bridge-school, presented a paper on ‘Loss of energy due to lack of transport in mountainous areas’ at the National Children Science Congress in Bhubaneswar. It not only won him the Young Scientist Award, but also gave him a chance to receive an award from President Ram Nath Kovind. His paper, meanwhile, brought the need for transport, to the fore.
Though the village had some semblance of roads, it did not have proper modes of transport, connecting to towns. Chinna Kannan’s achievement helped the village find a place on the map, shortly after which their long-pending demand of a bus, from Anthiyur to Kongadai, was fulfilled. This bus service now helps more than 10 villages located in the region.