I teach disadvantaged children for free

“After my marriage, I was settled in Soganure village in Arakkonam taluk of Vellore district in Tamilnadu, but I was always willing to render voluntary service for the upliftment of children, poor women, and widows”, says Deepa a Graduate from Chennai.

Motivated by the orientation programme on Udhayam Eco DRR in August 2016, Deepa registered herself as a volunteer for Vellore Social Service Society (VSSS) under Caritas India facilitated Udhayam Eco DRR programme.

She started taking classes for children from 1st to 8th standard studying in the Government Schools in Soganur. These children are from the disadvantaged families of daily wage earners.

“I am blessed with very good grasping power and can repeat whatever I learn. This makes me a very good trainer”, says Deepa who is taking Non-Formal Education classes for 70 children in Soganur. All children attend classes from evening 5.00 to 7.00 in 5 days in a week.

Since September 2016, she started encouraging young women and youth to enroll as volunteers for village development. It was in response to her request that VSSS started evening free tuition center for poor school going children in this area.

Seeing the success of the centre, her neighboring village leaders had started their own centre and hence the present strength stands at 35 out of which 22 are girl students. “I look at it as a positive step because we can reach out to more deserving students”, said the enthusiastic trainer.

Recalling one of review meeting message of Dr. John Arokiaraj, Zonal Manager Caritas India where he said, “The extent of a child’s learning needs to be comprehensive. We need a curriculum in which creativity, innovativeness, and development of the whole being mark the growth of learners in addition to learning in the cognitive domain. Development of co-scholastic aspects of the personality such as life skills, attitudes, and values, participation and achievement in co-curricular activities as well as health and physical education need to be emphasized.’

“I want the children to enhance their thinking skills, be original, imaginative, raise questions, analyze problems, build on new ideas, take responsibility and be expressive”, says this motivated volunteer.

In addition to the school curriculum, Deepa teaches dramatics, dancing, elocution, general knowledge, painting, drawing and recitation of Tirukkural,  the classic  Tamil text consisting of 1330 couplets. The children are encouraged to play traditional games like Pandi, Pallangizhi and hide and seek. They are also aware of the preventive measures of vector-borne diseases.

“Very rarely when I am not able to go to the centre, all the children come to my house in search of me. This concern and bondage is something which cannot be expressed in words”, says Deepa.

“I motivate children by giving them prizes. There are two exceptional students in my class. They are extraordinary in their studies and score full marks. Their poor economic status in no way hinders their appetite for knowledge. Updated with current affairs they can answer many a general knowledge question and I see a very bright future for these two geniuses. They are the source of inspiration to me for furthering my learning. Through them, I encourage peer learning”, laments this motivated trainer.

“Once a parent of 2nd Standard student came to me with a gift and advised me to charge fees for my services, as their daughter who was failing in Mathematics has started getting above 90% in her school exams after attending the evening classes. I politely refused. This is an unforgettable moment in my life”, proudly recalls Deepa.

Deepa takes care that all the children complete their daily homework and maintains the individual record for each student, track the health status and scholastic performance. She also keeps a periodical monitoring to document the progress where the performance shows the upward trend.

“My next target is that I want my students to be proficient in Yoga and Hindi and for this I have to become proficient myself first”, said Deepa.

She thanks, VSSS management steered by its Director Fr. Antonisamy for creating these opportunities not only in Soganur but also in 9 other places. She specifically emphasizes that the similar contribution of her colleague Ms. Thamaraiselvi in Pernambut area also needs to be acknowledged.

VSSS acknowledges the motivation and support given by Caritas India in conducting monthly Parents Teachers Association meeting. This is a conducive platform for meaningful dialogue and builds confidence among children, parents, and teachers.