“Don’t cry if your teacher scolds you. Study without wasting time in front of the television,” are the words of advice of four-year-old Sharmadha for her mother Kalaivani Rajagopal (22) of Sellipalayam.

She is among the 66 married women who are pursing various undergraduate and postgraduate courses in a private arts and science college for women here.

Kalaivani told The Hindu that her parents got her married to Rajagopal, a truck driver, at a very young.

“But my husband is very supportive and has helped me join college and pursue higher education. My sister in-law, an agriculture labourer, does all the cooking during the examinations,” the first year B.Sc. Mathematics student, who is also the class topper, said.

An interaction with the women revealed that 20 of them were mothers while a dozen of them are pregnant. Everyone attributed the support from their husbands and in-laws as their driving force. “They have helped us pursue higher education which became a dream for us after our marriage,” the women unanimously said.

Nirmala Packiaraj (25) of A.S. Pettai who joined college earlier took a break for six years to take care of her son and is now back to college. “My husband studied only till third standard and was keen on helping me complete my graduation. Now, my son tells everyone that both he and I are in the second standard,” Nirmala, who is doing her second year B.Sc. Mathematics, jocularly said.

Nivetha (21) joined B.A. English Literature through distance education mode. She added that her husband was so supportive with household work and has helped her join B.Com (regular mode) and successfully complete five semesters in both courses without any arrears. “There was no restriction to take part in cultural and other sports till I got pregnant,” adds Ramya.

Many married women said that they were initially hesitant to come to college with a wedding locket on their neck, but other students and staff treated them without any difference.

“I took a break from college for two-and-a-half months for delivery. But, I did not miss any lessons as my friends came home everyday and updated me on what was taught in college,” final year Computer Science student Bhuvaneshwari said.

Principal of Trinity Arts and Science College for Women S. Arunachalam observed that the number of married women pursuing higher education in that college had increased from 3 to 6 per cent in four years. He also observed that married students have very good attendance and complete the assignments in time. “Not so many married girls can be found sitting in classrooms in any other parts of the State,” he added.

It is learnt that 6 to 10 per cent of the total number of students studying in arts and science colleges for women are married. An important reason for them to pursue higher education is establishment of many arts and science colleges exclusively for women in this emerging education hub and free transportation service provided by the institutions. It is learnt that they preferred arts and science courses to engineering.