The students say their agricultural-labourer parents cannot afford to send them to Chennai and support their educational needs

On Monday, the first day of the new academic year for class XI at the Government Higher Secondary School for the Visually Impaired in Poonamallee, there was not a single student from the institute’s feeder school in Thanjavur.

All 22 students from the Thanjavur high school have passed class X but have refused to come to Chennai.

For the past several years, successive batches of visually-impaired students from Thanjavur have written to the department for the welfare of the differently abled to upgrade their school but with no avail.

The students hail from villages in and around Ariyalur, Nagapattinam, Thiruvarur, Karaikal and Thanjavur. There are 10 blind schools in the State and only two for higher secondary education — one for boys in Poonamallee and the other for girls in Tiruchi. Last year, 18 students were admitted from Thanjavur to the Poonamallee school.

G. Arun Prasad, who scored 389 marks in class X, is from Palanjur village in Pattukottai taluk of Thanjavur district. His parents are agricultural labourers who have told him to drop out if he has to go to Chennai. His classmate J. Murugadas too faces the same predicament.

“My parents are agricultural labourers and do not have the means to support me in a big city,” said Murugadas who hails from Athangudi in Tiruvarur district. “Students from three batches ahead of us had requested the government to upgrade our school but no decision was taken,” he said. Murugadas scored 408 marks in class X.

The students said that on Monday they were asked to come to school with a copy of the ration card.

“When we went to school, we were asked to collect our transfer certificates (TC). We were told that if we refused to take the TC, we would not get a conduct certificate,” said a student.

The students refused to take their TC and instead sent a petition to the Chief Minister. The petition has been signed by the students and their parents. A cursory look at the signatures reveals the parents are neo-literates.

“We have to travel 300 km to Chennai and our parents are casual labourers who don’t have the means to support us. We fear we will not be able to pursue our education. We request you to upgrade the school and help us,” the petition reads.

Students said they decided to petition the CM fearing the issue would not be brought to the notice of the government. Officials at the department for the differently abled said they were aware of the issue and had brought it to the notice of the commissioner.

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