June was an eventful month for us in the Vanavil as the school reopened after summer vacation on the 1st of June. We had to purchase a lot of materials in advance for our kids as they go into a new academic year. Big thanks to our donors as the kids were really excited to go to the schools with those newly purchased materials: Bed sheets, Mattresses, Buckets, Slippers, Uniforms, and Bags.
We had around 19 new admissions this year with nine kids joining our kindergarten section led by Ms. Durga and Ms. Murugammal and 10 students to 1st standard. Vanavil’s LKG to 5th School now has a total strength of 83 students. The new admissions and the events also meant that our school Headmistress Shalini and her colleagues had to work hard in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the Vanavil school.
We always enjoy sharing the small moments of joy when our kids achieve. Thirteen kids from our small family joined the Government High School, Puducherry in 6th Std and one more in 7th Std. Kids joining 6th Std in a different school is a big event in their life as that would be the first time they go out of Vanavil and is a crucial step in equipping them to stand on their own legs.
Our older students V Lakshmanan and S Shiva joined 11th Std in the CSI Corley Higher Secondary School, Chennai and S Devi and P Bhuvana took admission in St. Theresa’s Girls Higher Secondary School, Tarangambadi after clearing the SSLC examination. Two other boys, A Sami and K Ramachandran finished their SSLC examination and opted for vocational education in the Govt. ITI, Nagapattinam.
Our reinduction drive has been very effective as our drop out children, Manikandan and Marriyappan joined St. Joseph Community College, Manjakollai. We hope the skills that they learn from the Electrician and AC Mechanic course would help them find a living and sustain their family.
Health & Hygiene
On 12th June, our teachers convened an awareness class on hygiene. We felt that a minimum knowledge of hygiene is indispensable for our kids considering the consequences of its negligence.
We also took our kids to the Government Primary Health Care Center, Vadugacherry for routine medical camps every month. Those few found to have serious ailments were referred to the Government Hospital in Nagapattinam and appropriate follow-ups were done.
Arts, Culture, & History
Vanavil School celebrated the birthday of Kamarajar, the freedom fighter and ex-chief minister on 14th of July. Poetry sessions, dance, speech, drama, and songs about Kamarajar were organized during the event. Thalir Thulir, the KG section of Vanavil School recited their nursery rhymes as well.
We always believe that learning happens not just in the four walls of a classroom but also beyond that. So, we inspire our kids to engage in extra-curricular activities, arts, crafts, sports etc. As part of this, our kids went to Thanjavur on 13th of August and staged a play called “Vannathupuccikalin Aaru” in the South Zone Cultural Center. Big thanks to Mr. Vijayakumar who directed the play and helped our kids in staging it with perfection.
On 15th of August we celebrated Indian Independence Day in a grand fashion. A lot of parents came for the function and the flag was hoisted by Mayandi, the Sellur Village Head. The function also included a dance, play, villupattu, mime, and other performances by the children and we distributed gifts to the kids who won medals in the sports day competition.
Then on 17th, Ms. Muthamizhi and Ms. Nandini came to Vanavil and they took motivation classes for our kids. We also took students in 3rd, 4th and 5th classes for an educational visit to the Nagapattinam Museum on 22nd of August.
In July, we tried to open bank accounts for all our kids as directed by the District Child Protection Officer and the Child Welfare Committee during their visits. Taking into account their peculiar background, most of our kids do not have the required Aadhar card or other photo identity proofs. So, we made a Student Profile form in which the teachers are collecting the details of all children taught in and supported by Vanavil.
These forms were distributed on the 6th of August and our teachers visited the Tsunami rehabilitated colony in Sellur. This particular form contains the details of parents and all the other details of a child required for academic and other legal purposes. We collected the forms August end but there are kids whose documents, like birth certificates, have gone missing during the Tsunami. Hence, we are still struggling to open bank accounts for some of our kids as Aadhaar and another address proof in the form of the Birth certificate has been made mandatory by the government for opening a bank account.
We conducted our regular teacher meetings over the summer. On 22nd July, there was a discussion on improving the overall classroom management as well as the weekly lesson plans. Our teachers took a joint decision to make classes livelier by avoiding their monologues and involving the kids in a joint discussion during the regular classroom hours. Also, our English teacher Vinothini gave a summary of Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam’s autobiography, “The Wings of Fire” during the meeting – each teacher is supposed to read and present on a motivational book every month.
In our 3rd August meeting, science teacher Govindammal bagged a gift of Rs.1000 for preparing the best lesson plan and also for her overall teaching performance. We constantly assess our teacher’s performance based on the ways engage children in a constructive manner. Govindammal, while taking classes on domestic animals, took the kids to our own farm where we have cattle. She also organized an interview with Jayalakshmi who looks after them. Incorporating practical exposure with the textbook helps the kids in developing a deeper understanding of the subject. Another great example is Gayatri, our Mathematics teacher: while teaching the unit on Weights and Measures, she brought a weighing balance and the kids made weights using clay. Awards are instituted to recognize additional effort that our teachers put in to make the classes more interesting.
Another major step was the joining of our new project manager, Abel Job Abraham in mid-June. He just finished his Masters from Azim Premji University, Bangalore and will be helping us in our new initiatives.
July 29th, our board members Matt Wennersten, Devishree Radhakrishnan, and Raja Subramaniam visited Vanavil to conduct teacher appraisals and interview candidates for the vacant post of Office Coordinator. 14 candidates appeared for the interview. We hired Mr. Yogaprakash after considering his academic credentials and working experience. He joined our team on 7th of August.
Teacher performance was found to generally satisfactory, with good growth from a a number of candidates. With encouraging performance and a reasonably good finances, we were able to implement a good hike on the salaries of our teaching staff.
Outreach Centers – A New Site in Vanjur!
While conducting various activities in the campus, we have also focused on rejuvenating our efforts in the outreach centers. In order to strengthen the activities, we have appointed one new staff in both of our outreach centers, Porakudi and Neelappaadi.
We also did canvassing drives around Porakudi, Apprakudi, Neelappaadi, and Srivanchiam during the latter part of June in order to find drop-outs, give them counseling and get them back to schooling. We now reach around 91 kids in the outreach centers in addition to our campus: 38 in Porakudi, 48 in Neelappadi and 5 kids in our new outreach center in Vanjur.
Earlier, we had found an abandoned building constructed by CCF Canada and Speech Madurai in the Tsunami rehabilitated colony in Vanjur. After seeking the permission of the local community, we rejuvenated it by spending around Rs.25000 and got an amazing teacher Seethalakshmi to lead our efforts in the Vanjur outreach center. On the 22nd of July, all of us including our Managing Trustee, Revathi Radhakrishnan went to Vanjur and readied the building. Classes started on 25th July.
All of our staff, dealing with various odds in their personal life, bring out the best in the underprivileged children we serve. here. Being aware of this, we arranged a two-day trip for the staff to Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi. 25th and 26th of August were two refreshing days for the whole staff when they kept aside the usual chores of dealing with the kids or cooking food. They visited the Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam memorial, Pamban Bridge, Old railway station in Rameshwaram et. al.
A Note of Thanks
We once again extend our sincere gratitude to everyone who helped us in purchasing the commodities needed during the opening of this school year. The stationery which we bought for sixth months itself costed us Rs.26500. This was in addition to the other one-time expenses mentioned earlier and it would not have been possible for us without your support. In addition to this, a couple of well-wishers were kind enough to sponsor special meals for our kids during this period. Mr. Ilangovan, Mr. S Appadurai and Ms. Vasuki who had also worked as a lady’s hostel warden with us sponsored special lunches. We are lucky to be supported by people with enduring bonds who come back to us every academic year and supports our initiatives in their capacities. We look forward to similar kind support from all of you in the future as well.