Digital empowerment Society

Don Bosco alumni address a less-known pandemic issue: The threat to the girl child’s education

During the laptop distribution event at the Adi-Dravidar Government School at Kilambakkam on Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road, on July 24. Dr N. Ezhilan, Thousand Lights MLA, was the chief guest. Photo: Special Arrangement  

The boys from the 1997-batch of Don Bosco Egmore have rediscovered the wisdom of travelling together and therefore farther.

Deepu Antony notes that his batchmates were loosening the purse strings for the pandemic-hit packing a provision kit here and donating an oxygen concentrator there, keeping the proffered right hand hidden from the left.

However, along the line, they decided to make common cause, and that has made a difference in the lives of fifty underprivileged girl students in Class X.

“We thought that as a batch we should do something that would benefit more people,” recalls Deepu.

The need for oxygen concentrators and provision kits tends to float around visibly on the surface due to the traumatic images from recent months and the barely-concealed fear of another deadly surge.

The 1997 batchmates did think of these essentials, but chose to peer deeper into the cup of woes for unaddressed needs that could have settled to the bottom unnoticed.

An image that emerged was that of a girl child dropping out of school because her pandemic-hit family cannot support her education anymore.

“There are multiple reports from India and beyond, including reports prepared by United Nations about children dropping out of the school system due to economic pressure brought on by the pandemic. In India, the girl child is at a greater disadvantage in this situation,” explains Deepu.

Besides, a quotidian encounter further nailed the necessity of prioritising education during the pandemic.

“An auto driver who is allowed to park his vehicle in our apartment casually mentioned the need for providing children with laptops and tablets. His children are attending online classes using tablets that they received due to somebody’s generosity,” Deepu points out.

He carried that auto-driver’s thought to the immediate WhatsApp group chat with his batchmates, only adding that the initiative be aimed at helping girl students.

As they were on the same page, Min Siragugal (digital wings) was born effortlessly.

“Initially, we thought we would get laptops for 25 girl students; but in 10 to 12 days, 17.5 lakh came in, with our batchmates contributing 99 percent of it, and the remaining one percent coming from relatives. It surprised us, as we had expected that it would take a month to make this collection.”

The next step entailed identifying the beneficiaries.

“We wanted laptops to be given to only girl students, and we identified two Adi-Dravidar schools with the help of Anand Bhushan, a DB batchmate who is a member of the Round Table. One school is in Thaiyur on Old Mahabalipuram Road and the other in Kilambakkam on Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road. From discussions with principals of both these schools, we identified 50 students, 25 from each school. We have chosen only tenth standard students, because we are told that the government is going to offer laptops to eleventh and twelvth standard students.”

The laptops are being given to the school, which would in turn distribute them to the ident3ified beneficiaries.

“The laptops will be passed on to needy students in the tenth standard batch from next year, followed by another batch the following year. So, students from three 10 standard batches will benefit from this exercise.”

At the time of this article going to print, preparations were being made for the laptop distribution programme at the Adi-Dravidar Government School in Kilambakkam, and the chief guest was from the 1997 DB batch — Dr N. Ezhilan, MLA from the Thousand Lights constituency.

YR Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education (YRGCARE), which is known for its community outreach programmes, drives the initiative. Madras Central Round Table 82 & Ladies Circle 73 is the implementation partner.

Here again, there is a batch connection. Founded by the legendary physician and microbiologist Dr. Sunithi Solomon, YRGCARE has her son Dr. Sunil Suhas Solomon in its governing body. Dr. Sunil, who is Associate Professor in Medicine at the Division of Infectious Diseases, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States, traces his schooling days to Don Bosco Egmore and its 1997 batch.

“Even in the last two years, the 1997 DB batch were associating with YRGCARE to support it in its initiatives, including the one in which it was giving away sanitary kits to girls from underprivileged families,” adds Deepu.

Joseph Kennedy, a filmmaker and Don Bosco alumnus from the 1997 batch, points out how his batchmates rally around any social cause that any of them would have started. As a case in point, Joseph refers to “Men In White” an initiative that “I have been driving to support the work being done by the Salesian fathers through projects aimed at improving the quality of life for the people in northern Sri Lanka. DB-1997 batchmates have been supporting this initiative. The Men In White Movement has been recognised as one of the best practices by the World Confederation of the Past Pupils of Don Bosco.”

Deepu underlines that the 1997 DB batch has plans to make this digital education charity an annual feature, and also extend its scope by reaching out to more schools or even colleges. If that happens, they would approach corporate foundations for support.

Kennedy underlines how all the boys of the 1997-batch share the credit for the initiative.


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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 12:25:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/don-bosco-alumni-address-a-less-known-pandemic-issue-the-threat-to-the-girl-childs-education/article35533543.ece

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