A setback that set students back on track

In his thoughts, the 16-year-old came back to haunt him. He was still yearning for a validation and seeking the true meaning of life.
Marimuthu handing over study material to class 10 teachers of govt school in Ariyalur
Marimuthu handing over study material to class 10 teachers of govt school in Ariyalur(Photo | Express)

ARIYALUR: One could barely distinguish M Marimuthu from the other 16-year-olds in his locality. Encircled by the whims of adolescence, the teenager from Sakkottai in Ariyalur loved loitering around with his friends and whiled away time watching television soaps. He flunked in class 10 examinations, meanwhile his friends managed to scrape through. Now, as a 53-year-old, he recalls how the event had traumatised him. He struggled in the following year but ended up with a smile in the second attempt.

Subsequently, he took up Diploma in Mechanical Engineering and came out successful in 1993. He started a computer centre in the town. He was settled in life. Well, almost. In his thoughts, the 16-year-old came back to haunt him. He was still yearning for a validation and seeking the true meaning of life. That was a trigger that he could not resist. He began an initiative with his old gang in 1998, the ‘City Groups’.

They identified that students lacked basic general knowledge and started conducting quiz competitions to boost interest in the same, in various schools across the district. Soon, his initiative was to conduct mock tests and provide special specific study material to class 10 students who were weak in studies. He would then honour the toppers of the examination and help those who failed in the model examinations. These Model Public Examinations continued from 1999 to 2005, until the government started conducting revision tests.

To further increase the pass percentage of class 10 students, Marimuthu provided special study material to about 1,000 class 10 students in the district. The study material targeted students unable to cover all subjects. He compiled five subjects into one book making it easy to digest. From 2010 till date, he has been providing material to about 4,000 students every year.

Marimuthu also considered the students who failed in class 12 and started giving them study material from 2018; he targets 500 class 12 students every year. The pass percentage of students in class 10 and 12 board examinations is on the rise in the district. Various sponsors contribute to these mock tests and special study materials.

“I did not have basic knowledge in subjects when I was in school, which is why I failed the class 10. We first started with quiz competitions because we wanted to encourage curiosity towards learning. We moved on to mock tests and study material as our target was slow learners and we wished that no student should fail. Students who have the aptitude to study will survive, but it is not the case for the below-average students. Studying five subjects proves to be a challenge, and failing class 10 might make many drop out of school. We focus on providing easy-to-understand explanations on all subjects in a capsule. By combining all the five subjects into one book, students will feel more motivated to study,” said Marimuthu.

“It is not solely my work. It involves the help and efforts of many people. We have many sponsors and volunteers who help draft the study material. The pass percentage of class 10 and 12 students has increased, and the district has scored one of the top marks in both examinations in the state throughout the years. Our aim is for all students to pass, bring 100% pass to Ariyalur,” he added.

Marimuthu said that students are failing in Tamil. He aims to focus on the subject next. He plans to take his initiative to four districts that have low pass percentages. Karupur Poyur Government Higher Secondary School headmistress Manimegalai Marudhadurai said, “For 25 years, my husband and I have been a part of City Groups. We aim to teach students in the simplest way possible. I teach Tamil, and I make sure students are not afraid to approach the subject. We conduct mock tests, give special attention to students who find the subject difficult. We want students not to merely score marks and forget the subject. We want true learning to happen.”

Many students swear by marimuthu’s commitment. “Usually, I find it challenging to read five subjects. But, it was easy for me to approach the study material. I would give complete credit to this initiative for my passing class 10 this year,” said one student. Marimuthu has put behind the hurt of his failure. As every batch emerges triumphant in Ariyalur, he celebrates success.

(Edited by Meghna Murali)

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