At a time when almost everyone passes the threshold of Class 10 with ease, and flex boards celebrating A+ victories appear in every nook and cranny, a few students from fishing families in Kozhikode district have a different story to narrate.
Passing Class 10 was not a cakewalk for them, who fought against the mentality of their family members to come out with flying colours. And the credit goes to a slightly older set of students who dedicated their spare time for the good of their friends.
Akshara Samudram is not just another exhibition of social responsibility for Yes India, a group formed by students from various colleges in the district, who have come together due to their longing to make a difference. It was in 2014 that Yes India volunteers noted that most students from coastal areas did not make it in the SSLC examination, and even if they did, they could not go for higher studies. Besides, the dropout rate in lower classes was also high. An extensive survey that followed pinpointed reasons such as poverty, lack of awareness, child marriage, and societal pressure to be the breadwinner for the family at a young age for the poor educational standards in the region.
“Parents, mostly fishermen, did not have the means to send their wards for higher education. Moreover, girls were married off as soon as, or even before they completed Class 10. As for boys, there was a general lack of awareness and interest, not to mention the pressure from families to pursue the family profession,” said Sumayya Farveen, project director of Akshara Samudram. She has been with Yes India for three years.
Under the project, Yes India first adopted Mukhadar, a small fishing village near Kozhikode south beach. At first, it was an enormous task for volunteers to convince local people that they meant well. However, support from some well-known individuals in the region and local clubs helped them win the trust of families soon.
“There were students who did not even know addition and subtraction. Sometimes, we roped in teachers from local schools for special tuitions. Also, the mentors gave personal attention to each student. It worked, and all the 13 students we had mentored passed the SSLC examination the following year,” Sumayya added.
Needed: a friendly approach
Volunteers spent a lot of time with the students and their families. “Only a friendly approach would help in the case of the students. They do not need more teachers but an elder brother or sister to guide and motivate them,” she explained.
The project does not end with ensuring a 100% pass. Volunteers continue to guide students to choose the right career path and higher education opportunities even once they complete Plus Two. “Most students had no idea about grace marks. Despite being good sportspersons, they had to be informed that they could get admission for higher education through sports quota,” Sumayya said.
The success of the mission at Mukhadar caught everyone’s attention and soon Yes India received support from other parts of the coast to help children there. In 2008, volunteers of Akshara Samudram mentored students at Nainamvalappu, Kothi, Vellayil, and Chaliyam and attained 100% results (60 students), one student with full A+ and two with nine A+.