School dropout from Chennai’s Kannagi Nagar clears Class X exams at age 31

S. Velangkanni, a resident of Kannagi Nagar, had to abandon schooling due to family circumstances, but was determined to return to studies

Updated - May 18, 2024 10:16 pm IST

Published - May 18, 2024 09:25 pm IST

At the study centre in Kannagi Nagar run by Muthal Thalaimurai Trust

At the study centre in Kannagi Nagar run by Muthal Thalaimurai Trust

S. Velangkanni

S. Velangkanni

Close to two decades after she left formal schooling abruptly, S. Velangkanni took up her textbooks again and completed it.

Recently, she cleared the Class X Board exams. Thirty-one-years-old, Velangkanni is a Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) employee.

She cleared social science paper, the last of the Class X board examination papers she had to appear to complete her SSLC.

“I was supposed to appear for my Class X board examinations in 2007, but my family had to shift from Mylapore to the resettlement colony at Kannagi Nagar and that signalled the end of schooling for me,” recalls Velangkanni, the youngest of four sisters.

An early return to the classroom was dashed in 2010, when her father, a sanitary worker with CMWSSB, died after battling ill health. Being the only bread winner, Velangkanni’s mother was focussed on marrying off the four girls including Velangkanni, which she did. In these circumstances, studies could not enter the picture.

“Later in 2018, on compassionate grounds, I got a job with CMWSSB and it involved field work, which I was not comfortable with. I had to go from door to door for collection and do assessment of drainage lines at homes,” explains Velangkanni, a mother of three now. “To seek a change of role at CMWSSB, I had to have passed SSLC”.

Muthal Thalaimurai Trust, a non-profit working in resettlement colonies in Chennai, came into the picture at the right time. After work, Velangkanni would attend the night classes offered by the Trust at Kannagi Nagar. Based on the advice of Trust members, she sought to take the SSLC exams in batches and she had to clear them within five years.

“In 2020, I cleared three subjects, starting by choosing the easy ones,” she says. In 2022, she appeared for mathematics and social studies. “Social science was tough, and so I kept it for the last and I managed to get 38 marks,” says Velangkanni.

Preparation days

Three months before Board examination was when she would put in the maximum effort. After finishing the household chores, she would settle in to study between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. and again from 5 a.m. to 6.30 a.m. “The teachers and volunteers in the Trust kept motivating me. They provided me with study material — important questions and answers in each of the subjects,” she says.

While commuting to work and during free time at office, Velangkanni would browse through the study material.

Her husband Praveen Kumar, who works as a painter, also supported her.

Velangkanni is waiting for the final mark sheet to present it to the office. “After that I can make a request for the post of a record assistant,” she says, adding that clearing Class XII is her next target.

Velangkanni is clearly demonstrating the importance of education in the most dramatic way possible to her three children.

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