Solomon’s smart classes help tribal kids in Dindigul race to top
Solomon also felt that teachers needed to pay more attention as most of the children were first generation students.
DINDIGUL: At the Panchayat Union Primary School in Sirumalai Pudur, S Solomon Joseph’s classroom stands distinctly different. As you enter his classroom, you may usually be welcomed by children singing along in unison to a rhyme being played out on the smart TV. The 45-year-old primary school teacher has been enriching the classroom experience by installing a smart TV, laptop, and projector, all paid for out of his pocket.
They say teachers who enjoy teaching prepare their students to enjoy learning, and Solomon, a teacher of class 1-5, has made the aphorism ring true. His initiative has spurred a tremendous improvement in studies and attendance of students.
Solomon hails from a remote village, Kamatchipuram in Rettiyarchathiram, and belongs to an agricultural family. He finished his Diploma in Elementary Education at the District Institute for Education and Training (DIET), Ottanchathiram. Solomon always gravitated towards teaching primary school students, owing to his belief that if foundational education is strong, one will be able to easily navigate through any space later. He continued to work in the fields while tutoring children in the evening.
On July 22, 2004, Solomon started his career as a teacher at a primary school in S Mottur, Salem, and in 2017, was transferred to the panchayat school in Sirumalai Pudur. Solomon noticed that the lives of children here are different. Most of them hail from the Paliyar tribal community, and the remaining are children of agricultural labourers.
“They come barefoot to the school with hungry stomachs. They need to reach Dindigul for accessing health or entertainment services,” says Solomon. He also noted that parents here find it hard to send children to school. “We personally visited homes and spoke to them and ensured student attendance. This rooted relationship with families helps a lot inside the classroom too. It also aids children to ease into the latest facilities in the school,” he says.
Solomon also felt that teachers needed to pay more attention as most of the children were first-generation students. Hence, apart from teaching, he extended support to gain them scholarships, community certificates, helping them with their higher education and more.
“During the pandemic, we saw a drop in attendance numbers. With the support of the headmistress, A Thilagavathi, I painted numbers, alphabets, multiplication tables, and more on blackboards. Every day before classes begin, I make students read these out loud for better retention. Initially, I used my smartphone to show YouTube videos to them, to help students understand the lessons better, but that didn’t help much. Then I decided to set up a smart classroom. DEO Valarmathi and the headmistress supported the idea. This helped students understand and retain concepts better which turned out to be a huge achievement for us,” says the passionate teacher.
“Teachers should equip themselves to provide education beyond textbooks, using pedestrian concepts from lives to elucidate things taught in class. Students will have a better grasp this way,” he adds.Parent cum School Management Committee President S Abinaya said that after the installation of the smart TV, parents are more willing to admit their children at this school. Moreover, some parents are planning to shift their children from private schools in the upcoming academic year.
“In order to ensure safe drinking water to students, Solomon sir installed a water purifier system on his own. He also helped girl students get free education and boarding at Bon Secours Convent after their class 5,” she adds.
A Santhoshkumar of class 5 said to TNIE that Mathematics was quite hard for him earlier, but not anymore. He learns Math by watching his favourite cartoon characters on the smart TV. “Solomon sir even helps us in our personal lives. Recently, when a street dog bit my brother and my grandmother faced difficulties taking him to the hospital in Dindigul, sir came and took us in his car. He is one gem of a person,” the kid says, beaming.