Saraswathi Vidya Mandhir imparts basic education to Vanavasi students who live in remote hilly and forest areas of the State
TS Venkatesan, Chennai
Saraswathi Vidya Mandhir, run by Tamil Nadu Vanavasi Seva Kendram, is doing yeomen service by imparting basic education and empowering hitherto uncared Vanavasis living in non-descript remote hilly and forest areas. It is a unit of Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. The school, located in Karumanthurai in Salem District, is a service organisation for the upliftment of Vanavasi people in the field of education, health and culture.
With the noble idea that a good education will certainly bring the Vanavasi students on par with the students of the other areas in all walks of life, a middle school in Karumanthurai and two primary schools in Navampattu and Vellimali are run by this organisation in the name of Saraswathi Vidya Mandir.
The middle school (up to Standard VIII) at Karumanthurai has a strength of around 325 students accommodated in 9 classrooms. “We also have a hostel Sri Ram Manavar Illam which provides boarding facilities to 30 children who live in villages around Karumanthurai where there are no proper road and transport facilities. For the hostel we give preference to children who are really very poor and who have disturbing family backgrounds,” says Nandhini, the Head Mistress of this school. In Navampattu over 190 students are studying. They are from Malayalle community (people who live in hill areas). The Vanavasi village is part of the Kalvarayan hills.
The school is run with the help of donations from various kind hearted people. The students are charged minimum possible fees and very poor and deserving children are taken care of by individuals under special schemes. The Karumanthurai School was set up in 1996 and Navampattu was in the year 2006. The students who had studied in these schools have pursued higher studies. Some did B.Ed and some are doing MBBS, B.Tech courses also. “Our students who studied in our school have got employment in banks, government and private organisations. In the early days when we set up the schools, it was an uphill task for us to enrol students from these communities. They were highly reluctant and non-cooperative when we approached them to send their wards. Our repeated visits and convinced the importance of the education, slowly there was a sea change in their mindset, said Tulasi Ganesan, a teacher.
Most of the teachers in these schools are belonging to the Vanavasi community. It is easier for them to interact with their own community children. The students too feel as if they are at home. Apart from imparting education, we teach them the human values, moral lessons, Hindu customs and culture through highlights of Bharat’s two great epics namely Ramayan and Mahabharat. The school organise Sri Krishna Jayanti, Ganesh Chaturthi, Saraswati Pooja and all Hindu festivals, says Thirugnanam, Tamil Nadu state joint organising secretary of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram.
The another notable work of the school is helping students to get enrolled in the Union Government-run Eklavya schools. Sundraperumal, a teacher in Karaumandai schools, takes extra care in helping the students. He takes special classes after school hours and during holidays to help Vanavasi students to prepare for writing entrance examination to get admission in Eklavya schools in the state. Nearly 60-70 per cent of the students who were trained by him have got admitted in Eklavya schools in Villupuram District (for boys) and Puthragunda Palayam (for girls). In these schools, the Union Government takes care of their studies from standard VI to XII which is a boon for the Vanvasi community, said Thirugnanam. Now they plan to construct a new building and expansion of classes to standard XII level in two years. Navampattu conducts classes up to standard V. Both the schools impart education under state’s Samacheer Kalvi pattern.