ASSEFA (Association for Sarva Seva Farms), a non-governmental organisation, is in the midst of a silent revolution inspired by the Gandhian ideology and Vinoba Bhave's thoughts the association has been involved in creating structural changes in the lives of peasants and their families.
Among other things ASSEFA gives prominence to education, its 163 schools are there in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and also have recently started a B.Ed College. Madurai Zone, Executive Director and Secretary S.Loganathan, speaking to The Hindu on the occasion of the ‘children's job fair' here on Saturday, said that during the late 70's early 80's in a reaction to the social conflicts that were existent then, to boost literacy rates in rural areas and mainstream the neglected, chose their areas of operation keeping in mind to be a catalyst for a better change. The areas chosen include Madurai, Sivaganga, Uthiramerur and coastal regions where caste conflicts and issues of development were of a major concern.
Considering the fact that children women and aged as the most vulnerable people in our society the association started mobilising local communities in the most neglected zones and starting to work to change their livelihood. In fact self-help groups for women was started as early as the 70s.
In Madurai they chose the Natham block where literacy rate was so low when they started functioning, it was a mere 13 per cent and we conduct surveys once in three year's time and the last such survey showed that it has grown up close to 60 per cent. Most of them are first generation learners and girl students are in good numbers.
In an effort to instil confidence among the students, a job fair which is an annual event is held here. M.Vasantha, Director of ASSEFA Schools said that it was an event which basically aims to provide a platform for the children to expose their multifarious talents and also to have fun mingling with many students.
For each subject which is part of the curriculum the students have set up pavilions displaying models and whole lot of information on the subject which they were able to gather. Number games stall, science stall, stalls on livelihood measures, social thought, English language, word play and ahimsa were part of the fair.
Apart from the subjects of study the fair had stalls on physical and mental health, traditional forms of medicine where one was able to find ayurveda and siddha products on display.
The fair which is a huge event every year sees close to 5,000 students participate. One of the most interesting features of the fair was the elections held during the day. The candidates to be voted were Gautama Buddha, Albert Einstein, Subhas Chandra Bose, Mohandas Gandhi, Bharathiar and Mother Teresa. Notices, placards and information about these prominent figures would be distributed and held by the students at various places within the fair and the visitors voted for their favourite figure.