CHATLINE ARUNA V.IYER traces a Narikuravar couple's struggle for setting up a school for the community

Nearly three decades ago, eight students from a batch of 150 remained at Tiruvalluvar Gurukulam Middle School, a government school for the semi-nomadic Narikuravar children, to complete their Plus Two. Mahendran, from that dismal eight, married Seetha, his junior in school by 10 years, and together they fought for 22 long years to let education percolate through a community whose checklist had never included education.

Armed with nothing more than their youthful optimism and the understanding that education was the only hope for their backward and generationally impoverished community, Mahendran and Seetha set up a hostel-cum-school for Narikuravar children in 1990. “There was an unused panchayat union school in the middle of our colony in Devarayaneri (near Tiruchi),” says Seetha, “which we cleaned up to begin the hostel with around 100 students from Narikuravar colonies all over the State. And that's when our battle began.”