This 56-year-old counsellor from Tirunelveli aims for change

Since 2016, councellor Ulagammal visited over 200 government schools and colleges across TN and interacted with over 30,000 students.

Published: 11th December 2022 07:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th December 2022 03:05 PM   |  A+A-

Counselor S Ulagammal taking a class at a government school at Kolathur. (Photo | P Jawahar, EPS)

Counselor S Ulagammal taking a class at a government school at Kolathur. (Photo | P Jawahar, EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  Ask S Ulagammal what lesson she has gleaned from her life, and she will tell you that nothing beats confidence. And there aren’t many people more suited to make such a statement than this 56-year-old counsellor from Tirunelveli.

Ulagammal was only 10 months old when she contracted polio, which swept through the countryside often those days. It left her with a paralysed hand and a leg. Needless to say, her childhood was anything but normal. Her parents, however, never gave up on her and encouraged her to study hard, which she did.

As a teenager, Ulagammal taught children at the primary school that her father owned at Sindupoondurai. By the age of 20, she was tutoring students from poor families for free. It was during this time that she discovered her ability to listen to others’ problems and help them make informed decisions. Her deeds made her a critical cog in her community and a source of inspiration to her friends and neighbours.

In 2001, after completing MCom, MPhil and MSc in Counselling & Psychotherapy, Ulagammal moved to Chennai at the age of 34 to teach at a leading IAS/IPS academy. During her 14-year stint at the academy, she came to closely understand the many problems that her young students faced but couldn’t find solutions themselves.

“Many adolescents say their parents and teachers refuse to listen to them. This affects them mentally and physically, reducing their quality of life and academic performance,” says Ulagammal, who is now pursuing PhD in education from Manonmaniam Sundaranar University.

Since 2016, Ulagammal visited over 200 government schools and colleges across TN and interacted with over 30,000 students. She couches her counselling for students on the principle that “self-responsibility is key to success”.

She says that adolescent years are crucial for developing strong social and emotional habits, healthy sleep patterns; regular exercise; coping mechanisms, problem-solving and interpersonal skills; and managing emotions among others. Many teenagers, however, are at a risk of developing mental-health issues owing to unsupportive living conditions, stigma, discrimination, exclusion, and lack of access to quality support.

Ulagammal says that the onus is on the family to create a protective and supportive environment for the children to grow in. As for the school, equal in importance as family, state and union governments should focus on ensuring basic facilities such as toilets, drinking water, and playgrounds in all schools. These facilities play an important role in shaping a student’s outlook of the society.

She also requested the state government to appoint more counsellors in schools and colleges to reduce students’ stress and help them find their calling at a young age itself. For instance, she says, many students, including those with disabilities, are eager to participate in sports but have no idea how to choose the right game. A little bit of counselling would prove to be a boon for such students, she adds.


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp