Primary schools in Kannagi Nagar
School for children with special needs
– Gokul G K
In a brightly lit classroom in Kannagi Nagar, Yazhini, an eight–year-old autistic student listens to her teacher, with hands under her chin.
She’s one among the 25 students of the Monfort Community Development Society (MCDS) – Special Education School, in Kannagi Nagar.
Teaching in Kannaginagar – a slum resettlement colony, infamous for crime- is a challenge, says Hemalatha – the only teacher of the institution.
The iron grill door of the school, thus, mostly remains closed, some little heads peep through the grill when the street cricketers yell “six” or when crackers burst in the nearby street.
Most of the students are affected with developmental disorders such as autism, there are also some cases of genetic disorders such as ‘down syndrome.
A uniform syllabus is followed for all students in the MCDS aging from 5 to 10 years. The course is updated every year with minor changes.
The children are taught colours and patterns. According to her, Some of the students can now identify almost all primary and secondary colours. Despite this, Speech, Dance, Singing, Drawing, Sports, and Physiotherapy sessions are given to the kids. The MCDS have thirteen such study centers in Chennai including two centers in Kannagi Nagar.
Kannagi Nagar is still infamous for crime and violence, Even though the crime rates have dropped in the last one year, the old reputation is still tagged with the area.
The latest crime reported from the area was in May 2018, when a 23-year-old painter named V.Vimal was killed. Six people including a 17-Year-old boy was arrested in connection with the murder.
The involvement of children and teenagers in crimes is also significant, despite having many schools and a comprehensive curriculum, many students drop out and move towards crime.
But in MCDS, dropout rates are much lower, some kids even move to regular schools after few years of training.
Viswa, a six-year-old, a student of MCDS got admission in to main stream government school, in 2018, after a year of training.
A day in the school, starts with the narration of stories by the kids, they are most excited to share stories. From the fat black cat to the tiny goat, everything becomes a subject of their stories. Every hand goes up when Hemalatha asks for the morning story.
Of course it’s not a regular classroom, some were wandering around the hall sucking their thumb, and one was fixing the hand rest of his metal wheel chair.
When the noon-bell rings, lunch is given to every child under a meal scheme run by the MCDS.
Many students, according to Hemalatha, are improving. But there are some who suffers from severe mental conditions such as ‘Down syndrome’, who needs more time to grasp information, special care is given to such children.
Even parents, now, are cooperating with MCDS. Many of them are hopeful about the future of their children. But this wasn’t the case in Kannagi Nagar, according to many senior educators in the area.
Most parents never used to care for their children’s education, they were more interested in sending them for daily wage works in the city, said a senior teacher in the Kannagi Nagar Primary school.
But now, the parents and even the residents are giving due importance to education. Even the police are helping with this initiative by bringing drop outs back to school.
Children like Yazhini would soon see a world much competitive, outside the identical buildings of Kannagi Nagar.
“My dream is to make them ready for that world,” says Hemalatha.
Government Primary School
– Ashreya Patial
Meanwhile, in a near-by street, 80 students are squeezed in a single classroom while two classes with two teachers run simultaneously in Panchayat Union Primary school, Kannagi Nagar. It is located in a small area right in the middle of the Residential colony here. Founded in 2006, the school has 977 students currently from class 1 to 5.Friendly voices of kids chatting with one another echo around the streets of the school.
After the tsunami floods, 25 female teachers were transferred from Alathur, in Madurai to teach in this Panchayat Union Primary School. According to S.Uthra, the school Principal, the place used to be an empty ground before the construction of the school’s Building.Initially people from the Kannagi Nagar community trespassed into the building, but it reduced after school gates were laid. But even now few goats can be seen infiltrating from the half open gates and students are sent to shoo them away.
Comparing her days from Madurai to Kannagi Nagar Uthra remarks,’most of the parents here are uneducated and get agitated if they face a small problem from the school. They gather around and the safety of teachers is in danger. Bursting of crackers can be heard inside the school’s building’.
Panchayat Union Primary School is one of the four government run schools in the area with the highest enrollment rate .It started with 325 migrant students belonging to various underprivileged communities and castes of Tamil Nadu and a few students from Bihar too. As the enrollment rate has gone up merely 16 classrooms for student accommodation look insufficient. Around 80 plus students are squeezed in a single classroom while two classes with two teachers run simultaneously.
Some classes are taken in a confined ground with a tree in the middle. The ground acts as a playground as well. Due to lack of furniture teachers can also be spotted sitting on the floor along with the students.
‘The teachers do not have staff room to sit during lunch breaks,’ she adds.
Uthra said, ‘In the early years of establishment problem of cleanliness was most prevalent in the students. They came to the school in unwashed clothes without bathing. But it has changed over the years; the school’s primary focus is promoting and inculcating habits personal hygiene in children’.
From 2011, after permission from the education department it became the only government English Medium School in the locality. Thereafter it stated a separate school uniform for English medium students.
The school has a ratio of 529 girls from 448 boys. To provide an equitable school environment for girl students the Primary school has tied up with World Vision International , a humanitarian organization. They go door to door to promote girl education and provide aids like free uniforms. Uthra comments, that there are no student dropouts in the primary wing. The students are served noon meal everyday. Sri Sai international charitable trust is also one of the organizations who contribute in delivering breakfast to the students. Activities like yoga and Karate classes are organized for children on weekends and weekdays focus on academic development.