The spark in Ramachandran’s eyes conveys a clear message: “I am here to win,” he says. Twelve-year-old Ramachandran is a proud member of the Dr. Radhakrishnan Group (the students are put in groups by the teachers for ease in allocating responsibility and for conducting competitions) in Kamarajar Residential Bridge School, Tiruppur District.
Ramachandran, a native of Maniyaarpalayam Village in Namakkal District, was forced to drop out of school to help his parents repay their debts; he worked in a coconut kalam (a place where coconuts are broken and dried) from 6.00 am to 8.00 pm for 2 ½ years and contributed INR 2,500 every month towards clearing the debts. “I hated the work because it was very tiring. I had to break 1,000 coconuts every day. My hands and legs developed deep wounds due to the tought nature of work. More than all this, I did not get sufficient food to eat. I cried, but there was no one to help me.”
When I was desperate to be saved, Soundaram akka (sister) from Hand in Hand came to know that I was working at a time when I should have been in school. She asked me if I would like to study. I nodded without a second thought,” he recollects. After much persuasion, Soundaram succeeded in convincing Ramachandran’s parents to send him to the Kamarajar Residential Bridge School.
Now in class VIII, Ramachandran is a happy student. Does he like to study? “I love to,” he says without hesitation, “the ALM helps me to remember what I study.” Active Learning Methodology (ALM) places less emphasis on transmitting information through lectures and more on developing student’s skills. They are involved in higher-order thinking and peer-learning through analysis, synthesis and evaluation; they are engaged in activities like reading, discussing and writing.
When Ramachandran enrolled in the Bridge School, he was a loner and did not know much about cleanliness and hygiene. The school teachers played mother to him and took him under their care and guidance, which has changed him immensely.
“I enjoy playing volleyball and carromboard with my friends,” says a chirpy Ramachandran, “I read the newspaper every day and keep myself updated. When I have queries regarding any news article, my teachers are always there to help. I take bath every day and wear clean uniform. I am a representative of the food committee in school; I ensure that the meals are served on time,” he says proudly.
When his once-discouraging parents visited him in the school, they were amazed to see the changes in him. With tears of gratitude swelling up in their eyes, they requested the teachers to take care of him and his future. With a confident look, Ramachandran says, “I want to become a District Collector and start similar schools to educate children like me.”