Sangamam Project site visit – February 20, 2014

Report by: Vijaya Sundaram and Kasturi Easwaran

Places visited: Pataraiperumbudur, Tomur, Allikuzhi, Placepalayam and Pudhuchatiram

We left Chennai at 8.00a.m. and reached Thiruvallur Collector’s office at 9.30a.m. where we met Shrinivasan, Co-ordinator for ASHA Sangamam project.

Our visit started with a visit to the ASHA office which is in the first floor of Shrinivasan’s house.  As seen in the picture, it is a well equipped office with proper desks, chairs, computers etc.  Shrinivasan told us that the teachers and students come there to use the computers.  Weekly meeting is held for the teachers on Saturdays so they can plan the schedule for the following week.  This is also an opportunity for teachers to give a list of items needed by the schools which can be supplied by ASHA.

After loading the car with the materials bought to be distributed in the various schools we left for the farthest school which is in Pataraiperumbudur.

This is a primary school with about 105 students?.  The Head Mistress was absent.  Shylaja Tamil Selvi is the new ASHA teacher at this school.  She has joined recently and just learning the ropes.  She seems very pleasant.  In addition Shylaja, the computer teacher working at this school as well as Kuppammal Chathhiram and ??? was also there. The children seem very clean and bright.  They were very eager to talk to us.  They follow the ABL method as are the other government schools which seem like a very interactive method.  They are able to display their individuality and study in groups not by class.  Their work sheets are all displayed in the classrooms for people to see and perhaps learn from each other.  We delivered some materials like stationery and foot balls etc.  Since they were in sealed cartons the teachers would take stock of the items donated by ASHA as per their requirements. 

ASHA provides this school teaching materials/learning aids (supplementing) and a teacher.  The government is also supplying them some enough materials as per the teachers. Asha covers materials which are not supplied by the government.

Our next school was Thomur.  This school has about 55 students.  This is also a primary school following ABL method.  Gayathri is the ASHA teacher who teaches computer literacy.  She seems like a knowledgeable and communicative.  The children were practicing tamil typing on computers provided by  government and ASHA. 

Gayathri seem to be a cheerful teacher with the right attitude to teach computers to children.  Here also the government teacher was absent and seem to be on long leave as she fell down and is seriously hurt.   Here also we delivered some teaching aids in sealed cartons. 

Our next stop was Allikuzhi.  Here the DEO (District Education Officer) was inspecting the school and the teachers were busy attending to his requirements.  This school is set up in a nice ambience in a separate compound.  There is a separate kitchen and midday meal was being prepared.  The children were well behaved.  The DEO was happy about the help provided by ASHA.  We delivered teaching aids here as well.  This is in thean interior village and seems to be be very poor population.  The children were dirty.  There is no toilet in this school as well and the drinking water tank seemed very unhealthy.  The DEO said that ASHA can help build a toilet in this school as children only use open space to urinate.  He has earmarked the area behind the building for toilet.  The caveat is that the building is going to be repaired.  Here the parents do not get involved in the children’s welfare.  Their support to the teachers is lacking.  Since the inspection was going on we did not spend much time in this school.  There is a good scope for ASHA to do the needful.

It was 12.30 by the time we reached Placepalayam which was our next school.  There was an are 2 ASHA teachers here, Anita and also another teacher Hepsiba appointed by the Parent Teachers Association. Since one of the teachers is not able to attend to her duties, the teachers themselves have appointed Hepsiba.  By the time we reached here it was their lunch time and the children were getting ready to eat.  ASHA has built toilets here for girls and boys.  The teachers seemed very pleasant.  The toilets are clean and are very useful for the school.  This school is in a nice area with matured trees behind.  The children seemed cheerful, perhaps it was time for lunch?.  The wish list is that they want additional sheet shelter for the kitchen area as there is no sunshade and it becomes very difficult to cook inside when it rains.

Our last stop was Pudhuchatiram school which on the main road from Thirumazhisai to Thivallur.  This is a project that is supported thus far by Pasumai Trust.  There is a large floating population of brick kiln workers, with seasonal employment in 2 places.  The government has approved admission to the children in 2 schools and the teachers will also move to 2 locations accordingly.  The migrant children were sitting in the verandah? of the school while the local students had a good classroom.  The head mistress showed us the building they were using earlier and is now abandoned due to unsafe roof.  This building is a nice size hall which can easily accommodate 200 children.  There were desks stacked in a corner.  It is sad to see that building going waste due to leaky and broken roof tiles.

There is a proposal for ASHA to provide 2 teachers and teaching aids to the school as Pasumai trust is unable to sustain their involvement and have requested ASHA to continue this support.  The children here seemed very keen and eager to show us what they have learned so far.  They were not in their uniforms.  There were 55 children and Pasumai trust is providing 2 teachers. One of the teachers Arogya Mary was there. The other teacher Dhanalakshmi was not there as she was hospitalized for a surgery. Instead another teacherand Guna Sundari was there. 

It was 3.30p.m. when we bid farewell to the school and Shrinivasan.  Eventhough we spent almost a day we felt we had insufficient time to talk to ASHA teachers.  The next site visit can be a surprise one and without Shrinivasan so we can talk to the teachers freely.

Shrinivasan, the co-ordinator seemed very helpful.  He did not take us to the school where his wife was a teacher.  He seemed to have a good rapport with all the government officials and seemed to be into various activities.  HHe is also a real estate agent.  He has a folk artist troupe.  Much to our disappointment he did not sing for us.  He has agreed to have a separate show of local talents.  Although we could not judge his value addition to ASHA his connection with the local population is helping in co-ordinating the acitivitiesactivities..