Thenmozhi, a bright and ambitious Class 7 girl, lost both her parents at a very tender age. Her father chose a life addicted to alcohol, and her mother killed herself because of his violent, abusive nature triggered by alcoholism.
“I still remember my parents fighting and my mother getting beaten up every time my father came home, completely intoxicated. I was in Class 1 when my mother killed herself. Shortly after that, my family decided to take me and my brother Surya away from that house and keep us under the care of my aunt.”
At an age when most students are yet to figure out their interests and passions, Thenmozhi is quite clear about her decision to become an IAS officer. Her determination to achieve this goal can be noted from her excellent academic record. She secured an A+ grade in her annual examinations and maintained her attendance at 99%.
Thenmozhi and her brother Surya, who is currently in class 10, lived at their aunt’s house for three years before their grandmother decided to get them back to where she lived with her son, their father. “He felt bad about his behaviour and promised he would never drink again. That was why my grandmother brought us back, but he hasn’t changed and is still an alcoholic”, Thenmozhi says.
Asked if she’d like to go back to her aunt and live with her, she replied, “No. I know how furious he can get when he is under the influence of alcohol, but I still prefer staying with him and my grandmother”.
After moving in with her grandmother, she joined A. Pudhur School in Class 4 and joined Project Nanhi Kali, an an NGO dedicated to the primary education of girls from underprivileged backgrounds, when she was in Class 5. Her grandmother supports her with the sparse income she earns from the MNREGA, therefore the academic and material support from Project Nanhi Kali is a welcome relief. “Even though I changed schools and homes so many times, never once did I miss my classes or excuse myself from going to school. Wherever I stayed, I made sure I attended school”, she states proudly.
Thenmozhi was always studious, gave education precedence over everything else, Project Nanhi Kali helped in further boosting her confidence and discovering her talent. “I have always loved going to school, However, after becoming a Nanhi Kali, I can see how much I have improved”, she says when asked about her academics. She further adds that her classmates in school still struggle with the basics of Maths being taught in class, whereas, the Nanhi Kalis breeze through that entire lesson with no difficulty. In addition to this, the pedagogy followed in class at the NGO’s Academic Support Centre has further contributed to her performance, “we understand better when we sit in groups and try to clarify our doubts with each other’s help”. When asked about the influence of Project Nanhi Kali outside of her classroom she simply replied “the classes at the Academic Support Centre force us to develop a helping nature. Therefore, even in our daily life, we naturally tend to become more considerate, aware and helpful”.
Thenmozhi discovered her talent in Public Speaking after joining the NGO. She does not miss a chance to take part in Speech Contests and has also won the 1st position in the cluster level and 2nd position in the block level Speech Competitions conducted at the Thally Block where they had to speak on Girl Child Importance and Education of Girl Child. She is of the opinion that parents should be made aware of the importance of educating their daughters. She says, “Parents are themselves uneducated and you can see how much they are struggling. Even then they are hesitant to send their daughters to school”. When asked what she does about it she says, “I spoke to a number of girls in my village who do not come to school. I even spoke to their parents. But they were stubborn and unreasonable and didn’t have any interest in what I had to say. When I asked them why they would be willing to send their sons but not their daughters, they would say that working girls generate more income than those going to school”.
She is apprehensive that her grandmother might not be able to help her complete her education. “I hope Project Nanhi Kali will always be available for me to clear my doubts and help me with my higher studies. My grandmother is too old, and my father will never help.”
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