Hello Friends of Vanavil!
From the blistering summer, an update to you all about the “exam month” of our part of the world. Vanavil is gearing up to celebrate its tenth anniversary but before we get to our celebrations the kids are bracing up for their annual exams.
The month began with another tiny beautiful baby calf being born in our school and raising the cattle strength to 7.
We’re very pleased that four kids from Vanavil (K.Kumar, K.Vedhanayaki, S.Amsavalli and S.Dhanalakshmi) appeared for their class ten exams in March. Vardini and Revathi helped out the kids with Maths and English and despite severe difficulties in learning English (many of our kids have problems with English) they have given their best attempt. We’ll get their marks in mid-May.
P.Sudha, our elder girl student pursuing higher secondary school at the St.Theresa’s school at Tarangampadi has given her plus two (12th) exams and is back at Vanavil. That’s a lot of results to wait for!
On the academic front for students schooled at Vanavil, that is, 1st standard to 5th standard, there were revisions of the third term portions and evening study classes focused on delayed learners to help them catch up with the class.
For the 6th and above kids who stay at Vanavil hostel and attend the nearby government high school in Puducherry, it was serious study time and they were attending special study hours at their school and were helped by Vanavil teachers on the weekends.
This year Vanavil celebrated women’s day as a mark of respect to the valiant and hard working mothers from our community and also some elder women from the village where the school is located. Right from the inception it has been the women in the community who, despite the depletion of family income, have resolved to send their kids to school. To explain to the kids that these women who they meet every day are real heroines and to celebrate them we had a few cultural programmes and each of the women were honoured with a present, a sari.
The teachers had prepared a small skit about an alcoholic father who quits his addiction looking at his daughter’s school result and resolves to make his daughter a doctor. Songs about women’s life and struggles were also sung by the kids. The parents were very moved and Kaliyammal, mother of our eldest girl child spoke about the early years of Vanavil and how it makes her very proud that her daughter goes to college now.
World Theatre Day Festival
The teachers and kids also found time within their strict study and revision plans to put up a theatre festival on March 28th to mark the world theatre day. Each class came up with a play and they made their own props and improvised costumes. The first standard kids made an amusing play about monkeys stealing a hat sellers hats. Second standard’s play was about water being refused to lower castes and talked about unity. 3rd, 4th, and 5th kids made their plays from fables of Tenali Rama and similar stories. In all it was a great creative attempt and they put up a great show.
The play by standard 2 was adjudged the best play and the play by the 5th was second best.
March Outreach & Student Engagement
After the appointment of Shalini as social worker, she pursued the long term absentees and went to Porakudi to get Soundarya, Vaidehi and Pandiyammal back and with the help of the community and the perseverance of Shalini got these kids back at school after a break of two months. They had gone to their mother’s village due to a family quarrel between their parents and separation.
We have started a monthly half a day teachers meeting and sharing from March. In the first meeting Shalini read the classic Japanese book ToTo san – a memoir by a student from a very different school in Japan before second world war in Tamil translation and briefed us. The book talks about many child centric methods that the Japanese school used and about its amazing head master Tomayashi.
Teachers came up with many suggestions to improve the functioning of the school and a detailed plan was drawn up on how to engage the children during the weekends and also to look at ways to do fun things that can help them academically like visits to the local library, building a volleyball team etc.
In March the hostellers were taken to Velankanni by the school warden Shalini for their monthly outing.
Fundraising & Operations
We are still trying to find donors who can support us to buy a two wheeler and a television + DVD player.
Since the summer holidays are approaching we would also need some sports items like foot balls, cricket bat and ball and stump set, Frisbees, ringball etc., On the funding end, we received 2 lakh rupees from the SSA (education for all project, government of India) for the months of April and May. That was our last funding for the month of March and we are planning to launch our fundraising campaign by end of April so that we have money to start the school in June. We also are a school which runs through the year and hence we work in May (though the teachers get to take two weeks off in May and other volunteers run art, theatre and other summer workshops for the children.)
We are raising money to conduct a theatre production camp and a painting, sculpture, and printing camp for the month of May. It’s the toughest time of the year for the Board but with our generous supporters we hope to make it happen one more time this year.
We have obtained the fire safety certificate from the fire department and have gotten ourselves registered with the Child Welfare Committee. We met the district collector to ask him for civil supplies and cooking gas at subsidised prices and he has assured us that he would look into our request and do something by June.
Vanavil at Ten
We’re TEN now; To celebrate the tenth anniversary we are planning to have a grand school day at Vanavil by end of June. The children are eager to have a school day celebration as we haven’t had one in the last three years due to scarcity of funds. We hope to call some local leaders and some leaders who work for tribal and marginalised communities. The kids will put out a show and will also display all the artwork and class work they have created during the academic year. We are also planning to hold a tenth anniversary and publicity event at Chennai, as a public thank you to all of our donors and supporters and a celebration of our children’s success. A huge team of volunteers are working with Matt and Dinesh to put together this event.
We’ll end this month’s update with a few candid moments from March. Check back for the April update soon!