It's back to classrooms for these school dropouts from Tiruchy

In an effort to get dropouts back to school, teachers visit their houses. Govt scheme turns out to be a blessing for many who have been yearning to study
Students playing in the Government Higher Secondary School at Somarasampettai in Tiruchy district | M K Ashok Kumar
Students playing in the Government Higher Secondary School at Somarasampettai in Tiruchy district | M K Ashok Kumar

TIRUCHY:  It was a knock on the door that let M Haridas (17) of Santhapuram village in Tiruchy leave behind his trowel at the construction sites and pick up his books. After his father was left bed-ridden due to an accident, Haridas swapped his school uniform for the role of the family breadwinner.  

Just as he felt he would never step foot into his school gates, teachers from the Government Higher Secondary School, Somarasanpettai showed up at his doorstep a few weeks ago. Speaking to TNIE, Haridas recalled, “After the accident, I worked as a labourer for `500 a day and the situation turned graver during the pandemic. But when the teachers came to my house, I instantly urged my parents to enroll me back to Class 10.” 

Haridas is one among the 50 students that Somarasampettai Government School re-enrolled this academic year. These teachers are part of a special drive — initiated by Education Minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi in June-July 2021 — that aims to bring youngsters back to classrooms. Following reports of kids dropping out of schools in Tamil Nadu, the drive formed teams of teachers to battle the situation. They go door-to-door to identify children who are not enrolled in school and then re-admit them. Over the last few months, the initiative re-enrolled 1.3 lakh dropouts across the State. 

This project has proved to be a game-changer for Haridas and the 3,769 other children re-admitted to schools in Tiruchy, to date. As many as 17,471 people were identified as potential dropouts in the district and so far, the education department has conducted surveys in 14,921 houses. Out of the surveyed, many were admitted to schools in other districts and others joined ITI and polytechnic courses. 

I worked as a labourer for Rs 500 a day
and the situation turned graver during
the pandemic. When teachers visited,
I urged my parents to enroll me back
to Class 10 M Haridas, Student

Chalking out a solution 
Sivaraman, a Block Resource Teacher (BRT) educator under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, who visited Haridas’ house admits that convincing parents is not an easy feat. “As Haridas has a passion for driving, I explained how a standard educational qualification was required for a license. I promised to get him one after he completes school. It delighted me to see someone who was working back in the classroom benches,” he added. 

Sivaraman was among the team of 3-4 people who visit houses and conduct spot admissions. The teams consist of a principal, a school teacher who is familiar with the students, and education department officials. 

Recalling a story about two girl children from Thayanur village, Narasimma Varman, Headmaster of  Somarasanpettai Government School, echoed Sivaraman’s sentiments on the difficulty of convincing guardians. He explained, “We had visited the house of two female students, from Class 8 and Class 9 respectively, who had last studied in Thayanur government school but had not enrolled themselves. The girls left school to take care of their mother who was severely ill.”

According to Varman, “We spoke to their father about the benefits of education and what it could mean for their family. After a long conversation, he was finally convinced and we immediately conducted spot-admission at their house to ensure there was no further deviation in his thoughts.”

Each teacher deftly chooses from several methods to persuade a parent, another teacher Manimaran pointed out. “It is a sensitive job. A few parents just need a push, some are convinced with scholarships while others are satisfied by government school freebies like bicycles and laptops.  But the task is gauge what works best.” In worst-case scenarios, we even reached out to the panchayat leaders and requested them to personally persuade adamant parents.” 

Bala Murali, Chief Education Officer, Tiruchy district, explained to TNIE, “We do not want any child to miss out on an opportunity to study. The target is to make sure all kids of the school-going age receive an education and we are striving to achieve this goal.”

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