Engineering and under-graduate programmes are gaining in popularity

They live by the sea and their families make a living out of it. But that is not the case with the younger generation from the fishing community. Unlike some years ago when children used to accompany their fathers into the sea, many of the children, increasingly, prefer other careers.

Engineering and undergraduate programmes are gaining popularity of students in the fishing hamlets, while medicine is not that too common a choice.

E. Divya, pursuing her second year B.Com, had decided that she would not follow her two sisters, who discontinued their studies and got married when they turned 18. “It was tough convincing my parents as the general practice in our community is that girls are not encouraged much to study,” says Divya.

Cost of higher education and lack of encouragement are challenges the younger generation have to battle out at homes. Divya's college fee, for instance, is Rs. 25,000 a year and in order to supplement the family income she gives tuitions in her neighbourhood.

“There is an increasing awareness about the need to complete a post-graduate course,” says A. Bhagath Singh, currently pursuing his Ph.D. at Pondicherry University. A native of Ennore, he says the stretch from Ennore to Tiruvottiyur has hundreds of families engaged in fishing, but also offers a range of other job opportunities.

“If the fathers of such students are employed in a secure job, the student is most likely to attend college. However, there are still some families where the fathers go fishing, and sometimes take the children along, too. In such cases, students tend to drop out at high school,” he says.

Youngsters such as K. Jeeva from Srinivasapuram fishing village in Pattinapakkam say many of them lost interest in making a living from the sea post-tsunami. “There is no steady income and the fear of natural calamities such as tsunami is still fresh in our minds,” says Jeeva, who commutes two hours to reach his college where he is pursuing final year B.Sc. (computer science). He wants to become a programmer. The coast has many such inspiring stories. Bhagath Singh, a student of anthropology, feels specific educational empowerment programmes targeting the fishing community would help raise awareness and expose students to different options.

Montfort Community Development Society, a non-governmental organisation, through its open school centres tutors school dropouts . “Previously getting children to come to these open schools was a big challenge. Today, there is change of mindset – some want to study while going to the sea. We orient them about higher studies and sometimes have former students talk to them about various career options,” says B.Kavitha, youth programme coordinator, at the open school in Pattinapakkam.

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