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Education has no bounds in Nookampalayam school

K. Manikandan
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For children of several thousand migrant workers who toil in construction work along the city’s IT Corridor, a dilapidated container in Nookampalayam village serves as a school.

Forty-two children in the primary school-going age attend the makeshift school, run by part-time teachers, in the village under the limits of Perumbakkam village panchayat near Tambaram. They are all children of workers hailing from Odisha and Andhra Pradesh who have found employment in Chennai’s suburbs.

In accordance with the policies laid down by the Central and State government that make it mandatory for every child in the school-going age to have basic and formal education, the Tamil Nadu government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) opened the school, a non-residential special training centre, at Nookampalayam. In this village, nearly 500 families are engaged in construction activity to create villas, independent and duplex houses, in addition to multi-storey apartment complexes.

“I want to be a doctor when I grow up,” said Sumithra, one of the students, whose father, Deenabandu, is a construction worker. She is among those senior students who read out the text written on the blackboard in Oriya and English by her teachers, Kanakadurga and Anjali Das, as the rest of the students repeat after her.

“I have studied only till class X. I came to Chennai along with my husband 3 years ago. My husband earns an average of Rs. 15,000 a month,” said Ms. Das, who hails from Cuttack, Odisha. She, along with Ms. Kanakadurga, is an education volunteer roped in by SSA to provide basic, formal schooling to children of workers from States outside Tamil Nadu. These part-time teachers receive Rs. 3, 500 per month.

Four other centres

In the city’s southern suburbs where construction activity has hit its peak along the IT Corridor (Old Mamallapuram Road), SSA runs four such centres at Shollinganallur and Semmanchery, in addition to the one at Nookampalayam. There is another centre at Chitlapakkam, where children of workers from Andhra Pradesh receive education. More than 125 children hailing from places outside Tamil Nadu study at these centres. “I have studied only till class III. I want my children to study well,” said Prabhat Behra, a painter hailing from Balugaon, Odisha. He lives with his wife and two of their children here, including Sujatha, who attends the makeshift school.

SSA officials said each year, commencing in June, they received a new batch of children, who are forced to move as their parents migrate from one construction site to another. The children who currently study in these centres made up only a fraction of the huge number that can possibly be accommodated in such schools, said a volunteer.

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