Students of Corporation schools march for environment

Twelve-year-old Don Mathan, who studies in a government-aided school on Old Mahabalipuram Road, is ecstatic. Clad in a new pink T-shirt and waving his pink cap, he is eager to tell everyone around what he did on Friday morning: “Kaapom kaapom suttru soozhalai kaapom” — we are saving the environment.

Ask him whose picture is prominently displayed on the cap and T-shirt, and just when he is about to utter the name, he is stopped by his teacher: “Say Amma or Chief Minister. Don't say her name. Be respectful towards your leaders.”

Birthdays are special; those of political leaders all the more so, and the children of the city certainly got the taste of it on Friday morning. Nearly 2,200 children, aged between 10 and 15 and drawn from Corporation and government-aided schools across the city participated in a rally to mark Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's 64 birthday.

The rally, which began in the morning at the Marina, saw children going to different parts of the city in batches flaunting their new T-shirts and caps, accompanied by their teachers. “The purpose of the march is also to spread awareness about preserving the environment. There could be no better occasion to do so than Amma's birthday,” said a senior education official of Chennai Corporation.

Nearly 50,000 T-shirts and 50,000 caps — designed and printed with the image of the Chief Minister on them — were distributed to the children. And not everyone from the seven Corporation schools that participated in the event was as fortunate as Mathan, because each school was asked to send only 200 students for the rally. So, most chose to send the 20 top rankers in each class.

“I wanted to get the cap too, but they didn't take me along,” lamented Vinodhini, 14, who studies in a Corporation school on OMR. She recognises the picture on the cap as that of “someone whose pictures are everywhere”, even on the footbridge outside her school. “Our teachers says it is because of her we get our noon meals,” she said.

For these children, who were recently caught in the debate over uniform syllabus which delayed the arrival of their textbooks, the rally was just another opportunity to escape their regular routine. “Given the background they come from, they don't really ask questions. It is nice to give them what they need, but should they be made to walk so much?” asked R. Gomathi, a Corporation school teacher.

But the children seemed happy, armed as they were with the water bottles and biscuit packets. “Most children here have just about a pair of clothes and just one uniform set. It is thrilling for them to get a decent set of clothes,” says Margaret, headmistress of YMCA Senior Secondary School.

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Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012

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