February was a hectic month at Vanavil as the kids prepared for their end-of-year exams. The month started with a farewell party to Chandran our Head master for almost a year. Chandran was a very good science teacher, Siddha medicine enthusiast and a diehard gardener. We wish Chandran who is gearing to assume office as a government official all the very best. He will be missed!
In February we held a cycle repair gala workshop. The cycles have been a big hit with kids but also breaking down regularly. Two excellent cycle mechanics from Tiruvarur came to Vanavil. They diagnosed the reason for the numerous repairs to the cycles as the fact that we didn’t do a necessary fit out of the cycles when we bought them. Each and every cycle was overhauled and refit and all the problems were rectified. The kids were also taught how to do minor repairs like puncture and tube burst. A register has been made where the repairs to the cycles will be monitored and the kids have been told that whoever maintains their cycle in the best way would get a gift.
The Child welfare committee and Juvenile justice board came to Vanavil for a home management committee meeting. P.Samy and P.Bhuvaneswari participated in the meeting on behalf of the students. Many of our facilities and practices were reviewed and the CWC members told us that once we register the hostel with the CWC we can apply for civil supplies and cooking gas from the government. We have to renew our fire safety certificate and then we can avail food supplies and cooking gas at reduced prices. The visiting officials and JJB members asked us to constitute a childrens commitee comprising of ten children who will meet and decide upon the menu for the month. P.Samy, A.S.Samy, M.Babu, S.Ayyathurai, M.Guna and P.Bhuvaneswari, V.Parameswari, R.Vinitha, M.Abirami and K.Kaathayi were elected as the first students home commitee.
In January, we started student monthly events to improve confidence and language skills. Our February event was commemorating poet and freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu’s birthday at Vanavil, with Teacher Sathya and Revathi telling the children about her life, poetry and works. The kids were also engaged to write poetry in their Tamil classes.
Science day was held as a day of scientific experiments and many kids participated enthusiastically in the event. Many scientific experiments were made and demonstrated by the kids. Revathi spoke to the kids about what is science and Shalini explained to them about the various scientific developments that help our lives. Experiments showing that air has weight (Gajendran), on measuring rain (Karthi), how to test if the egg is good or bad (Selvaraj), on Volcanoes and how they explode (Chinrasu), to show that air is needed for combustion (Arthi), about pressure and density (Guna and Sathyaraj), and about the breathing of plants (Babu) were demonstrated. Subash along with his favourite science teacher Surendar made a self propelling boat and they took it to the pond in the farm to send it for a ride
Teacher salaries have been enhanced thanks to our anonymous donor and Srinath. The teacher morale is good and Madhavan our English teacher who was on long leave of absence to be with his mother as she is fighting cancer has come back and finally we have full strength and a good team spirit at the staff room.
Kokila the teacher who was appointed in the leave vacancy of Madhavan has been very enthusiastic and is also a well trained art teacher so she will continue with us as the arts and crafts teacher. Our wonderful teacher and patient warden Shalini has been promoted to the Social worker position. We are creating this new position (once again thanks to our anonymous donor) to bring back long absentees and also to bring new children with a similar profile like that of the Vanavillers to the school.
This month we have three new entrants in addition to Divya, who has been with us for a bit more than a month now. Divya is from an astrologer community and she came to Keezhakarayiruppu with her family and a few other families as a caravan. She saw Vanavil and she wanted to study from here and her parents were happy to enroll her here. She has been admitted in class 8 at the Puduchery high school along with Danny who has joined standard 6.
Arthi and Karthi, two siblings from a village near Mannargudi were brought to us by their father on the advice of the Railway police sub inspector who had apprehended S.Karthi and Danny and handed them over to us. They don’t have a mother and the father seems very unstable and prone to alcohol and other conflicts with law. So we took in the two children who are very enthusiastic and are very good in studies. Though Arthi is a year elder to Karthi both of them had joined class five in their village school and hence we have also placed them in class 5.
Vijay, this tiny little prankster, was referred to us by the Social welfare board. He is from a village near Kuthalam and his father is away from the family. The mother is very very poor and is unable to take care of him. Vijay came with a huge wound on his feet (says nonchalantly, “i put it on a silencer”) and talkativeness which has already made him very popular at Vanavil . He still seems to like to roam around the campus than to sit in the classes but hopefully like all other newcomers he should gradually start attending classes.
The kids from classes 3, 4 and 5 were taken to Paravai santhai, a very famous traditional farmers market on the way to Velankanni. The kids went around the market and interacted with the local farmers and also learnt about indigenous varieties of vegetables. After the trip they were asked to write and draw about the trip. We are planning to take children on a trip every month so that we can further develop vocabulary and language skills.
The Harvest has been completed and lentils (thuvarai, ulundhu) have been planted in a part of the farm. In the land that is adjacent to the school building, vegetable seeds were planted by Nataraj, Solai, Baskar along with the kids. The fourth and fifth children are watering the plants regularly.
On the Farm front, the Granary construction is a bit delayed but will come up strong and sturdy. We plan to be using the completed granary/cowshed/firewood storage warehouse in March.
On the fifteenth of February after the farm paddy harvest was completed Nataraj and Sekar made Chicken Biriyani for the workers and the children and the kids enjoyed the change of regular menu very much. Sadly, our wonderful cook Nagarathinammal fell ill with typhoid and was admitted at the hospital. She is better now and is expected to be back by the middle of this month. Our support staff Vimala has been helping with the cooking.
The four tenth standard students Amsavalli, Vedhanayaki, Dhanalakshmi and Kumar are preparing for their Board exams. P.Sudha, one of Vanavil’s brightest kids, is taking her class 12 Board exams from the St.Teresa’s Higher secondary school at Tarangambadi (Tranquebar). Please wish them all very good luck with their gateway examinations!
One other happy event in February was that Tamil Nadu’s minister for fisheries from Nagapattinam, Mr.Jeyabal, visited the school on the 24th of February to gift the children a meal to celebrate his leader’s birthday. Our young students Subash, Selvaraj and A.S.Karthi welcomed him with a shawl which he promptly gave back to them with wishes.
Our Thalir Thulir class is performing well thanks to the efforts of our star teacher of the month Sathya who has made a lot of teaching aids/games by herself and is using many innovative techniques to keep the tiny tots engaged inside the classroom.
Finally, one of our elder girls, Murugammal, who is studying at the government teacher training college in Kurukathi, had been having some issues of late in fitting into the college, the Vanavil hostel and dealing with pressures from her village in the form of her ex boy friend (who is threatening her that he is going to marry someone else.) Murugammal attempted suicide and she was at the Tiruvarur GH for a week. The best news of the month is that she is fully recovered and back at college.