Site Visit Report to the Motivation/Tuition Centres in Irula Villages
By S. Sundar Kumar Iyer
Subhashree (Asha SV/Madras) and I visited the motivation and tuition centres in Tiruvallur district on 23rd-24th December 2003. We managed to visit six of the villages with tuition centres and two of the villages with the motivation centres. We were unable to visit Tirutani motivation centre during this trip. Overall, our impression was that the centres are serving their purpose and are having a wholesome impact in the education of the children in the Irula children and also in some of the centres in the government school in the area.
On 23rd morning I went to Siddamma’s place in Besant Nagar, Madras. Subhashree had also arrived there by the time I reached. Siddamma was just recovering from a severe bout of amoebiasis she contracted during her visit to some of the villages. So could not accompany us during this site-visit1.
At Siddamma’s house, we had a general discussion to get a feel where the work of Bharathi Trust (BT) was heading. BT is slowly off loading responsibility to the Sarpam Irular Tozhulaalar Sangam (Snake Irula’s Worker’s Union, henceforth referred in this article as Sangam) in Tiruvallur and is now moving to other districts, especially Vellore (Veluur in Tamil). She also passed a proposal for motivation school work in that village (see Appendix I). In Tiruvallur, she proposed setting up a hostel for the children of working parents (see Appendix II).
After the discussion we were then we were dropped off at the Central Station. Krishnan (Sangam President) who had arrived from Tiruvallur was waiting at the station. He and Siddamma headed for the meeting with the DM. Subhashree and I proceeded to catch the train to Ponneri. It was raining heavily since that day morning and rains were predicted in that area for the next day too. Although it did make us wonder about the aptness of the timing of our site-visit, it turned out to be a good reality check on how even two days rains affects simple activities in the Indian village.
After a half hour wait for the train and an hour’s comfortable journey in the electric train, we reached Ponneri just before noon. There Kumar, Ellayan and Dhanamma (Krishnan’s wife) were waiting to pick us up. They had come with one the vans of Bharathi Trust driven by Pazhani who is often employed by BT and the Sangam. We were to visit the centres in that van the next two days. Our plan was to visit the centres near Ponneri/Pulicat (Pazhaverkaadu in Tamil) area that day, stay at Kulathumedu village and finally head for the centres near Tiruvallur the next day.
Elavambedu (motivation centre)
After lunch at a hotel in Ponneri town, we went to the motivation centre in Elavambedu. The van was parked on the road and we made our way on foot to the settlement. Because of the rains, the whole place had become very slushy (it was easier to walk barefoot) and it took us almost 15 min. to cover the 500 meter stretch.
At the centre, Bhavani-teacher was taking class and 23 children were present with ages ranging from 5 to 10 years. We talked to the children and asked them general questions. They had just started the 3R’s. Some of the children recited poems and nursery rhymes. On enquiry, it was told to us that about 20 children were already attending the government school. It appeared as though it might take about a year before these children will be able to attend regular school.
The school, which is a thatched structure, appeared to be a little dirty and in one corner some water had seeped in during the rains. I enquired with the Sangam president for that settlement whether something could be done to improve the place. He said he would try to do something. I also realised that there were limitations on what can be done there without putting in money from outside. The residents of this settlement are poor and also do not have pattas (deeds) for their land - which meant unlikely support from government schemes. There were earlier supposed to be issued the deeds, but due to high level political changes in the state around that time, the process has been kept on hold. Sangam is trying to do what it can to get support in the given circumstances. As far as the children are concerned, the best we in Asha can do is to make sure all the children are able to join the government school in the area – hopefully by this coming academic session. The centre should continue for some time as a tuition centre according to the needs of the children.
Kundaelimedu (motivation centre)
We made our way back to the van parked on the road. The battery in the van was not getting charged and so we had to push the van each time to get it started. We reached Kundelimedu I about half hour. This settlement is in the middle of a large puramboke (government) land. After getting organised, the deinzens of this settlement have managed to get the deeds for the land where they lived.
This is one of the larger motivation centre of BT. Earlier it was supported by a funding agency that pulled out. It is a thatched structure with low walls. While most of the other centres have only one big room with no partitions, this centre has three sections in the main room and a small store room. There are three teachers (Usha, Kumari and Nirmala) and two cooks attached to this centre. We were told that 48 students attend this centre. The age group appeared to be from 5 to 8 years. About 20 students come from two neighbouring settlements. They are brought to the centre by a BT van. About 15 students from this centre have joined the government school. They are transported by Bharathi Trust van.
In anticipation of our arrival, the children were held back in the centre. We talked to the children and the teachers. The children came and presented some rhymes and poems. Many of the older children had just started learning to read and write. After some time, some of the children who had joined the government schools also joined us. We talked with them and asked questions. While they were able to read, write and count, I felt, they need to become more confident and become more fluent. That is one reason, the tuition centres are important for them.
While we were inside the centre talking with the students and the teachers, our driver (Pazhani) had figured out the cause of the battery not charging - the belt connecting the alternator to the motor was loose. He, along with the driver of the children’s van went to get a belt from the shop. They were delayed a little bit in this effort. It was interesting to note how the teachers treated the children with care. When some children started crying because the van went away (they thought the van has left without them and were worried about reaching home), the teachers consoled the children in a way only someone caring can.
We then went outside and talked with the villagers. In general the people in the settlement were happy with the school. They felt education was useful for their children. It was clear that many of the people in this village were poor. One old thin woman with sunken eyes came and started talking to us in Telegu2 and telling about her problems. On enquiry, it turned out that she was living alone in the village and was very poor. Subhashree asked to see her house and she led us to her hut. It was small, but appeared to neatly kept. It was a reminder that there are many old people who are poor and who live alone with little support in India. Siddamma had mentioned about this problem in the poorer villages last year.
The belt finally arrived from the shop and was fit in our van. After getting it started with a push this time, next time around, it should start with the ignition key! The children from other villages got into the other van to go home. We bid them and the children from the settlement itself good bye and left for the next centre at Mullainagar.
Mullainagar (brief visit)
The Irula settlement is some distance from the main village. The tuition centre is in the Irula settlement itself, which DP and I had visited a couple of years back. We were told that the tuition centre structure had become leaky (as we confirmed the next day) and could not be repaired because of lack of funds. It was now almost 6 pm and was also raining heavily. So, the children were probably sent home early. We decided to leave and come back the next day, if time permitted.
Rajarathinagar (tuition centre)
We proceeded to Rajarathninagar. Here the Iruals live on the edge of the village on the banks of the Pulicat lake (actually a lagoon but called a lake). Fishing is the main profession of the people here. The main section is economically better off on a relative scale. At the Irula section of the village, I found a number of one-room one-storied pucca structures coming up amongst the more humble Irula dwellings. The constructions had not been completed as inside work, such as flooring, plastering, etc. remained. I was told that Ellayan managed to get a few buildings allotted to the Irulas fishermen families under some government scheme through the Fisherman’s Association (involves all fishermen, Irulas and the fishing communities in the areas).
The structure where the motivation centre used to operatewhich I had visited last time I was in this village) had become completely dilapidated and was no longer usable. Since it was raining and somewhat late (past 7 pm), we thought the children might have gone back. But when we went around, we were pleasantly surprised to find Durga Devi-teacher just completing the evening session for the tuition centre with the children in one of the unfinished buildings. They had just used on of the unfinished buildings to get some protection from the rain and hold the class. We got to talk to the children. It was good to see them answer with confidence. They showed us various painting and craft items they had made (spray painting, designes with thread and paint, … probably techniques that teachers learnt at the workshop Asha conducted in Madras earlier last year). We asked questions on their school work. It was very heartening to note that many of the children who went through the motivation centre in the village were performing very well in their classes – with some of them within the first three ranks in class. Durga Devi is also helping out in the government school by assisting the teacher there during the day.
The lack of a place to hold the tuition centre is an issue here. The earlier structure as mentioned has collapsed. Once the construction work inside the buildings are over, they will be occupied and it will be difficult to hold classes there. They were trying to talk to the Panchayat to help, but so far they have not succeeded.
After the children dispersed to their homes and some of them were dropped in the van closer to their homes, we left for Kulathumedu for the night.
Kulathumedu (tuition centre)
During my last trip to the Pulicat area too, we had stayed overnight in Kulathumedu. We had then stayed in the motivation school building. This structure in this place too has a leaky roof now. In any case, we went to Ellayan’s house.
This village consists mostly of one room structures which was constructed during MGR’s time following a destructive flood in the area. In front of most of the houses another hut is built in the traditional Irula style. The places are usually shared by close relatives and as in most villages, it is more of a communal living.
It was raining quite heavily when we reached the village. Under the circumstances, our hosts did their best to keep us comfortable. We had our dinner – with many neighbours contributing to it. Then we retired for the night while discussing about various issues. Ellayan brought up the issue of economic activities in the village and the details of how having a boat will greatly benefit the fishing activities in the village.
The next day, we got up early. Attending to morning duties was an interesting experience, especially because it was raining and soggy all around and the main vegetation in this part of the country is thorny bushes. On the way back, Ellayan tooke me to Rajini’s place. Rajini is a Bharathi Trust staff member, who had accompanied us the last time we had visited the motivation centres. He, Ventri Vijay and others are now working in Vellore district where, as mentioned earlier, Bharathi Trust is now expanding its work. Coincidentally they had come back for some work to their homes on the day we were on a site visit.
The children at Kulathumedu had gathered in the tuition centre (with leaky roof). Subhashree and I talked to the teachers and children. Here too the students were very confident in their replies. They too were performing very well and getting good ranks in their schools.
We then had breakfast, for which again many neighbours contributed. Rathi-teacher of Mullainagar stopped by and asked that we should visit the centre that day.
After breakfast, Ellayan called the village elders (the elected members of the Sangam for the village) and there was some discussion about buying a boat. Since such type of intervention to spur economic activity was on the anvil for sometime for the Asha stars, we said we will consider it. After some discussions, we said that Siddamma would get back later (Appendix III).
By now, it was discovered that the van in which we had come had a flat tire – probably due to the bad roads on which we had been going the previous day. Since the wrench to open the bolts to fit the spare tire was not available, Pazhani and Kumar were planning to go to the main village to borrow the tool. This could be done only after the shop opened, which was after 8-9 am. In the meanwhile, Ellayan and Dhanamma took us see the Pulicat lake and to see the lighthouse and the beach. Ellayan’s little daughter, Kalaivaani also came with us. We took a motor boat (country boat fitted with a motor) across the lagoon to get access to the beach. A police outpost building (set-up to prevent caste clashes that had taken place in the past) doubled up as a school building during the day. The teacher of this government school appeared to be very sincere and enthusiastic. Ellayan mentioned that he had also gone to the same school at some point. We returned soon as the rains started to become heavier. On the return path, the boat we got in developed motor problems. It had to be towed by another boat. (Interesting to see all the impromptu solutions and innovative actions of people, even in the apparently ‘low-tech’ life.) By the time we reached the other shore, the van had been repaired. It was now around noon when we started back. At this point, Ellayan dropped off from the group as he had work in his village. Pzhani drove the rest of us - Kumar, Dhanamma, Subhashree and myself to the rest of the motivation centres.
We went back to Ponneri town and had lunch at the same place as the day before. We then proceeded to Mullainagar. As we were late, we stopped at the government school in the main village. Since it was raining heavily and chilly by Madras standards (we have to note that most people wear very light clothing or none at all; so even a slight drop in temperature makes it chilly), attendance in the school was poor. Some teachers were present and noon-meals were being served to the children at that time. We did not find any Irula children there.
Mullainagar (tuition centre)
When we then went to Mullainagar Irula settlement, it turns out that Rathi-teacher had kept the children for a pretty long time in the tuition centre there. Since we had been delayed (van repair and boat problem delays), the children had been sent back for lunch. Now, she called all of them back. In this centre too, we found the children to be confident in their answers to our questions. They showed us their paintings and crafts.
Again, in this centre too, the tuition centre structure needed repair. The roof here had come down in some places. They had appealed to the Panchayat for help. The Panchayat said that they can help with partial costs but not the whole cost. We did not promise them anything, but encouraged them to keep looking for other sources of funds for the repairs.
When we were leaving, we got to meet Vetri Vijay (who came to Asha meeting at MS3 in Kanpur) who had returned from Vellore with Rajini.
Then we started to proceed towards the schools outside the Pulicat area.
Senjiagaram (tuition centre)
We reached Senjiagaram around 3 pm. We wanted to talk to the folks in the village to discuss about a vermicompost plan they had proposed with respect to income generation activities. Unfortunately, at that time, the elders had gone to work outside the village. The children who had earlier assembled in the tuition centre in anticipation of our visit had gone to school. The teacher (Mariammal) was disappointed that we could not meet the children in the centre, for they had prepared some presentations for us. She showed us some of their craft and drawing work. We went to the government school in the main village.
The headmaster of the school had to leave for some personal emergency and another teacher had also taken the day off. So, one person, Dharma-teacher, was managing around 100 children in one classroom. It was an unenviable task indeed. This teacher was very liberal with the stick to maintain order. He also had a stentorian voice, which was intimidating and could make even elders meek in his presence. It certainly helped in keeping ‘order’ in class. Looking at the class, it was not surprising that the government schools welcomed the Bharathi Trust teachers to help out in the schools. (In this school too, Mariammal was helping out during the day.)
This teacher was all praise for the Irula children motivation centre. He said they were studying very well and had a neat handwriting – and much better than the other caste children. (The mention of caste so liberally made us a little uneasy, but that is the reality in India.) He separated out the children who had come from the motivation centre and made some of the write. The children also told some poems and rhymes. Since the stentorian teacher was around, I felt they were not able to open up enough. We were told that the Irula children usually escaped punishment from him because they usually did what they were told well.
While Subhashree was talking to the children, I left the group and walked around the school. It was a simple structure – one big hall with partition to form three class rooms. Small additions had been made – a facility for drinking water and a toilet were constructed outside. Even some benches had been obtained. Dharma, who has been teaching in this school for a few years, is supposedly very dedicated. He had tried to raise money from various fora and has got lots of basic improvements done in the school over the years. While his using the stick and intimidating approach was of concern to us, Mariammal mentioned that it was usually not that bad.
Tamaraikuppam (tuition centre)
By now, it was getting late in the afternoon. So, we decided to go to the next centre which was Tamaraikuppam / Janganapalli nearby. We went to the government school in the main village. When we reached there, the children were having a brief recess and were playing in the courtyard. Selvi-teacher of BT was also there in the school helping out. The main teacher (did not note her name L ) reconvened the class. The headmaster had taken a leave (it was the Christmas eve, a restricted holiday). Only some of the children were present in the school. The school session was over for the others. Here too, it was heartening to note, that the children from the motivation/tuition centre were performing very well. The teacher asked some of the children to recite poems. They also answered question. This teacher seemed to be quite enthusiastic in teaching. Another aspect I liked was that she was able to speak to the children in Telegu, which is the mother tongue of many children coming to school here. This particularly helped the smaller children feel at home.
Selvi-teacher’s help was also very much appreciated. It appears as though other community people want them to teach their children too in the tuition centre! (This was also the case in Senjiagaram with Mariammal-teacher). The main problem for the children in Tamaraikuppam is the place to assemble. The motivation centre structure was no longer good, we were told. (We did not go to the Irula settlement here, but only went to the government school where the children were present.) The government school is ok with the tuition centre running in the school itself. But the problem is that it will be difficult for the children to return after dark, unless some form of transportation is provided. Possibly a good mode of transportation can be provided. In any case, we requested them to find out a solution involving the villagers.
Kottaikulam (tuition centre)
We headed for Kottaikulam. This settlement is in the forest land. Through the sangams, the people have obtained deeds for the lands they live in. The government forest department has also built a office building here in the settlement. This was the only centre I had visited last year and had mentioned about it in my report.
The motivation centre here is a good example of a success story for a motivation centre in a remote location. Since there were no schools nearby, the government decided to take over the centre and start a school. The school serves the village as well as a neighbouring settlement. A teacher from outside comes regularly to take classes here. The government is also building a new school building, just as we enter the settlement from the road. The outside appearance indicated a well planned and pleasing architecture (unlike the cubic – rectangular parallelopiped, if you want to be strict about it – blocks we usually find for government built buildings). We directly went to the school, but found no one there. We were told that the children were in Forest office building, which Suresh (the teacher) is temporarily using as the tuition centre, which supplements the regular school work. We talked to the children. They were also able to respond confidently. This government school consists mostly of students from the village, and the children were maintaining their position in the ranking. The parents of the children had also gathered outside the building as we talked to the children and some were prompting their wards to speak up when they were being asked questions by us. Their pride was evident when they responded to our questions. We talked to them to find out what they think about the education and schooling. I tried talking to them in Telegu (the language of the village), but was politely encouraged to stick to Tamil. The parents appeared to be very enthusiastic about having their children get an education. This was very heartening indeed!
On that positive note, we said good bye to the children and parents and started for Tiruvallur. We made a brief halt at the Bharathi Trust office. We talked to Krishnan who was back from Madras. (It appears that his meeting with the DM was postponed to some other date.) After meeting the folks at the office, we were dropped off at the Tiruvallur railway station from where we caught the train back to Madras.
1 In spite of her bed-rest requirement, Siddamma keeps ending up moving around, much to the concern of her well-wishers. On the day we visited her, she had an appointment with the DM of Madras with regards to issues pertain to the Irula community living in the city getting caste certificates. Krishnan, the president of the Sangam was also to come to the city and join her in the meeting.
2 The primary language of many of the Irula villagers in Tiruvallur area is Telegu. However, almost all of them know Tamil well and speak in that tongue outside their homes. Some of those who have not ventured out much might not be that fluent.
Some general points:
Motivation Centres for Vellore District
Information regarding proposed project:
We would like to start and run three centres at the above locations as part time schools only. The centre will function from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. only daily as the support from Asha might be limited. If full support is given including meeting the food expenses, we can run full time centres. In part time centres, we can give only sundal as snacks to the children and the expenses is curtailed.
No. of families
No. of children
No. of girl children
Formation of evaluation committee comprising of 3 member from Bharathi Trust (one for each school), 3 village representatives.
This committee of 6 will be constant and will be accompanied by the cluster in charge of that particular area where the school is located.
Evaluation will be done as follows
Qualitative criteria: (i) Health of the child; (ii) Interest level of the child; (iii) Awareness of the surroundings; (iv) Communication ability; (v) Testing of the child’s basic knowledge.
Quantitative criteria: (i) No. of children initially; (ii) No. of drop outs of transit school; (iii) No. of children admitted in government school.
From community: Land, Labour except mason
From other NGOs: Help for teacher training
Building Materials: Consolidated Rs. 50,000.00 per school
No. of children: 120
(i) Building. 3 nos. for 3 villages Rs. 1,50,000.00
(ii) Recurring expenses
a) Salary teachers Rs.1200x4x12 Rs. 57,600.00
b) Travelling expenses Rs.300x4x12 Rs. 14,400.00
c) Snacks for children (sundal)
Rs. 60 x 120 x 12 Rs. 86,400.00
d) Study material Rs.2000x3 Rs. 6,000.00
e) Tour and releated expenses
Rs. 50 per child Rs. 6,000.00
f) Medical expenses Rs.5 x 120 Rs. 6,000.00
Total recurring expenses Rs. 1,76,400.00
G. Administrative expenses
Documdntation stationary, staff welfare,
Auditor’s fees, Administrative staff salary,
miscellaneous Rs. 50,000.00
Kalajatha for enrollment, Government
Schools enrollement expenses Rs. 50,000.00
Total administrative expenses Rs. 1,00,000.00
Total budget would be:
One time expenses for three schools Rs. 1,56,000.00
Running expenses/year Rs. 1,76,400.00
Administrative expenses/year Rs. 1,00,000.00
Total requested this year Rs. 4,32,400.00
Running expenses and administrative expenses will be needed for two more years
(estimated as Rs.2,76,400.00 x 2 = Rs. 5,42,800.00)
Hostel for Irula children
Need for a hostel:
(i) Cost of the land Rs. 50,000.00
(ii) Cost of construction of shed to accommodate 150 children
5000 sq.ft. x 100 Rs. 5,00,000.00
(iii) Cost of well, motor pump, electricity connection, phone, toilet, etc. Rs. 50,000.00
Total Rs. 6,00,000.00
Direct operational expenses per year:
(i) Food expenses Rs.500 x 150 x 12 Rs. 9,00,000.00
(ii) Medical expenses Rs.100 x 150 Rs. 15,000.00
(iii) Study material Rs. 25 x 150 Rs. 3,750.00
(iv) Tour expenses, festival expenses Rs.300 x 150 Rs. 45,000.00
(v) Electricity charges Rs.2000 x 12 Rs. 24,000.00
(vi) Phone expenses Rs.1000 x 12 Rs. 12,000.00
(vii) Salary warden 1x Rs.2000 x 12 Rs. 24,000.00
(viii) Salary teachers 2 x Rs.1200 x 12 Rs. 28,800.00
(ix) Salary maid 4 x Rs. 600 x 12 Rs. 28,800.00
Total expenses for three years: 2004-05, 2004-05, 2005-06
1. One time expenses Rs. 6,00,000.00
2. Operational expenses Rs. 10,81,350.00 x 3 Rs.32,45,000.00
3. Administrative expenses Rs. 1,00,000 x 3 Rs. 3,00,000.00
Total Request Rs.41,45,000.00
Alternatively: 1st year, need Rs. 17,81,350.00
2nd year need Rs. 11,81,350.00
3rd year need Rs. 11,81,350.00
Economic development of Irula
A village meeting was held yesterday (on January 13,2004) at Kulatumedu Irula settlement.Mr.Krishnan,
state president, Mrs.Rukkamma state secretary, Mr.Mari Taluk leader, Mrs.Sarojamma, district leader Sarpam Sangam participated and interacted with the community. All the members are happy to have this economic Scheme. Following are the important points which were agreed upon both by the community and sarpam sangam.
1.All the irula families must become a member in the sarpam sangam as few are yet to become members.
2.All the families are to benefit ,to take part and utilise the facilities created for economic development.
3.A core group consisting 3 women and 2 men will be formed to monitor smooth functioning of the activity.All the membersof the core group will be from the community itslf.They are responsible for daily collection of rent also.
4.A savings bank account will be opened in the joint names of 3 taluk leaders in the same village.
5.The core group will collect the rent on daily basis and deposit in the bank.
6.A rent of Rs.100 per day will be collected from the hirers.The hirers have to pay the daily rent irrespective of they catch fish, sell or make money.
7.A group of 4 families will be given the boat and net on day to day basis.The next 4 families will be given
the facilities next day and so on.So all the families will be given equal opportunities on rotational basis.The core group is responsible to work out equal opportunity to all the families.
8.There is a written agreement on stamp paper between the sarpam sangam and community for the smooth
functioning and success of the secheme.
9.Rs.35 000/per year will be collected as rent from the community every year and will be deposited in the
10.State executives of sarpam sangam will hold a monthly meeting with the community and with the core
group and audit the bank account.
11.Once all the money has been repaid the boat and the net will be given to the community itself.
As the fishing season is approaching if possible we can buy the boat and net from the available school funds immediately provided Asha can raise funds with in a month or so, sothat we can replace the loan
amount. Pl advise.
Trust <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: >
Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2004 21:10:27 -0800 (PST)
> From: Bharathi Trust <email@example.com>
> Subject: Re: Greetings!
> To: "S. Sundar Kumar Iyer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> dear SKI,
> given below is the exact quotation of the boat and net.
cost of fibre
boat one no.length 29ft,width7ft,ht.4ft
> without engine Rs.66 000/
cost of 10 H.P.engine Rs.35 000/
-total = Rs.1 10 000/
> net one for one family.(4 family members will go for
> fishing a day.cost of a net Rs.12 000/*4=50 000/so
> we require intially Rs.160 000/to initiate the activity. as you suggested let us start the activity first then we can add if required.
> with regards,
Details of ASHA-Motivation centre Teacher's education:
Year. 2002 June-2005 May
Open University System under Annamalai University Chidambaram.T.N.
Course of study
1. Duga devi
Total expenses sofar incurred Rs.47 400/-
First year exam fees. Rs.1000*12 Rs.12 000/-
Second year expenses Rs.3000*12 Rs.36 000/-
Second year exam fees. Rs.1000*12 Rs.12 000/-
Total expenses to be incurred Rs.60 000/-