Goal of the SEED camp
The camp is th understand the condition of schools in rural areas in Tamilnadu and determine the problems faced in general. The needs of the students were to be identified and help be given wherever possible. This was also an opportunity for the students of IIT Madras to get involved in the process of teaching rural children basic subjects like science, mathematics, and training them in English language skills. An objective was to inculcate interest in learning through the means of simple experiments demonstrating various concepts in science. The plan also included making of a student profile containing all necessary details of the students including their names, age, family and social background, talents and special skills.
Details of the camp location – SEED
The Mahatma Gandhi High School was established by Mr. Palaniswamy in Uthkotai Village with a view to provide education to children from insecure family backgrounds. Nearly all the students come from families where either or both the parents have some criminal records and are abiding their sentence in prison. As a result many of these children are the victim of social neglect and are denied education even in government schools. Earlier to this, Mr. Palaniswami had opened a primary school in Sri Perambudur which admits children from Kindergarten to the Fifth Standard. Consequently the High School admits students from the Sixth Standard upto the Tenth Standard. The school is exclusively residential in nature and does not admit regular students owing to various necessities. The school with residential facilities for staff and students is spread over a 5 acre area. The various blocks have been built with support from institutions like SBI, etc. Recently a block was constructed with the help of French nuns which is currently the main block. Necessities like food, shelter are adequately met with the help of collection programmes and donations. Occasionally, some people come forward to supply these requirements for a day or so on some occasions.
Throughout the year, many camps are organized by other colleges in Chennai in similar manner to the camps organized by IIT Madras. The students mainly come from places with unfavorable family backgrounds as mentioned. At present the school has a total strength of 77 students. The school works six days a week from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The students are a very talented and intelligent lot and exhibit good skill in music, art, academics and sports. Their needs are well looked after and they express great happiness and gratitude to the administration and faculty. Tutors come on a weekly basis to teach them music, dance, etc. The main problem faced by them is the lack of willing staff to come forward to teach in a rural area, far away from the city where the salary is hardly adequate. At present there are only four staff members while there are five different classes which require teachers for different subjects.
Most of the staff members do not stay for long and leave after a few years at most. As such some classes, particularly the lower classes are usually on their own for a major period of the day. Necessary items like chalks, dusters and other stationery as well as required text books and notebooks are supplied by the school. However help is very much needed in this as it is often noticed that these facilities are lacking. Over its history, some students have managed to successfully complete higher studies and graduation. The school has been able to achieve all pass in the Tenth Standard examinations for a few years now.
Contrary to what is felt, the students are only lacking in the absence of enough faculty as well as English language skills. All subjects are studied in Tamil medium, and since they do not have any exposure to the English language, they find it difficult to understand their English textbooks. Special attention is especially needed in the area of spoken English. As there is almost no opportunity for spoken English except in some classes, the students speak only in Tamil and find it very difficult to understand or speak English.
Conversation skills are also lacking somewhat. However it is possible to teach the lower classes some amount of spoken English. With proper explanation, they are able to understand, memorize and quote back whatever they have learnt. However they must be encouraged to speak in English more in order to get reasonable fluency over the language. Concepts of science and mathematics are easily understood by them and they are at ease with social studies and Tamil, which is their mother tongue, for which enough help is there.
More articles: Summer camps in Tamilnadu