In a very small village in Southern India, there is one happy school, different from all the others around it.
The boys and girls who come here to enjoy their education are admitted solely on the basis of need. Many come from homes, which are particularly poor because parent’s earnings are poor. Their families are often semi-literate at best, and all are at the bottom end of society.
Because of its unusual success, more socially successful families sometimes try to use their wealth to buy a place for their children in the school, but such offers are turned away, for the aim of the school is not to serve the privileged and make itself rich, but to help the children, who’d otherwise have no chance of bettering themselves and their families: to teach them through joy and love to become socially conscious citizens, who will ultimately help both their country and the wider world with all its problems.
First we must provide the best learning possibilities in a joyful environment, which makes it the home, that many of the children lack, where they can learn to respect, love and help each other, making the school a centre for such feelings to flow out to the society around us.
For this reason, no child is forced to learn, but each is given the personal attention, which will help them find those subjects which most interest and motivate them. So they may discover their own special path through education, and into life.
From humble beginnings we now have both a Kindergarten and Primary School, with a combined population of 210 children, divided into classes of 30 or less. Here we offer lessons in Tamil, English and Hindi, Science, Mathematics, History, Geography, Computers, and Physical Education: allowing our pupils to follow the syllabus of Tamilnadu Government’s Equal Education System (Samacheer Kalvi). We place a special emphasis on Environmental issues, making these children from tiny villages aware that they too are citizens of this great planet, with their own parts to play in solving its problems.
We also offer so much more, that makes our school exceptional, in offering the children a wide range of opportunities.
They may, for example, study Classical Tamil music (Vocal, Veenai), Western instruments (Key board, Drums), Classical Tamil Dance (Bharathanattiyam), Pottery, Drawing and painting, craft works, Silambam (classical martial art), and Yoga.
We take our students to visit the Police station, the post office, Government offices, banks, and other useful places, to ready them for the World by learning about their functions and the services they offer. And thus the children, themselves, become suppliers of important information on issues like health care, environment, child marriage, and child labour.
In this way, our children become small teachers, spreading the lessons they have learned, spreading education and awareness to the society around them. Anyone who meets them must feel how lovable they are, and the sense of responsibility, already there within many families thus finds a natural extension into the wider world, which is rare in a small village.
We value them so much that we are deeply sad when our pupils must leave us at the age of 10. So we truly hope that soon we may find the funds for more classrooms, equipment and teachers, so we can keep our family together here, until they have completed their high school education.
Of course, we already do our best to support our children until they are fully grown-up, although they have had to go elsewhere to finish their schooling. Some of them have achieved extraordinary success, considering their background of disadvantage and poverty. They are already the first in their families to get to university, and we hope that one day soon they will come back here to take over our work.
That is our ultimate dream, and thinks we are already more than half way there.