Serving selflessly, this teen started early

D. Narmadha has helped quite a few children stay on in school

February 27, 2021 03:02 am | Updated 09:05 am IST - Tiruvallur

In recognition of her work, Narmadha, right, was given the State Award for Girl Child Empowerment by the CM.

In recognition of her work, Narmadha, right, was given the State Award for Girl Child Empowerment by the CM.

A few years ago, a school student from a village near Mambakkam in Tiruvallur district had to drop out and start working to provide for his family. He might have continued that way, outside the school system, but for the efforts of another student, D. Narmadha.

The daughter of a daily wage earner, Ms. Narmadha went around collecting money and gave it to his mother, convincing her to send him back to school. Now, the boy is pursuing Class XI at a school in Chennai.

He is not the only child that Ms. Narmadha, 17, a Class XII student of the Government Girls’ Higher Secondary School at Uthukottai, has helped. With the assistance of teachers and staff members of the Integrated Rural Community Development Society (IRCDS), she has helped quite a few children stay on in school, in the most extenuating circumstances. In recognition of her work, she was given the State Award for Girl Child Empowerment by Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Wednesday.

“Through some friends, I came to know that a girl of Class VIII had to stop her education owing to family pressure. I spoke to her parents, but they did not listen to me. So I took a few teachers along and spoke to them. Now she is back at school. I have also stopped child marriages after getting information through friends,” says Ms. Narmadha, a resident of Velagapuram in Tiruvallur district, who aspires to become a Collector.

Not a rosy life

However, life has not been rosy for Ms. Narmadha either. Her father Devan and mother Kokila are daily wage earners. “I earn ₹250 a day and my wife ₹100. We live in a remote village. But we don’t want all these factors to affect the education of our children. We want our eldest son D. Naveen Kumar, studying in college, and daughters Narmadha and her younger sister D. Dakshayani, studying in Class XI, to pursue higher education and help others,” says Mr. Devan.

His daughter has been doing social work ever since she was in Class VIII. “She became a member of our IRCDS and Children Believe, an NGO, after she attended our free tuition classes. We started speaking about child rights in the class and the kids formed a group to help children in villages, and we provided training,” says P. Stephen, programme manager, IRCDS.

Ms. Narmadha led the other children in stopping child marriages and rescued child workers in her village. “Her village does not even have a proper bus service to the town. Despite all odds and her family circumstances, she has been fighting steadily for child rights. Along with teachers, she has created awareness of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao scheme, dengue and COVID-19 in the villages. She has also mobilised laptops to help children attend online classes. She also won awards from government officials earlier,” Mr. Stephen adds.

She is now striving to make her village child-friendly. “I want to ensure that all children’s rights are protected,” she says. Mr. Devan says his daughter has made him proud: “She is helping other girls come up in life. What more does a dad need?”

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