Kudigam is a small hamlet in Jawadhu hills with no roads, telephone network, health care facility and just one well right in the centre of the village. However, despite all this, a couple from the Malayali, a Scheduled Tribe, is educating all their four children, sending two of them to college.
When Jayanthi and Magendran Ramalingam had their first daughter in 1996, the uneducated agricultural labourers decided to name her Tamilselvi which means ‘Pride of Tamilians’ and took a pledge to educate her unlike other villagers who married off their daughter soon after puberty.
The Ramalingham household is the only family to do so in the entire village in Peenjamandai panchayat, Odugathur block, Vellore. Tamilselvi (21), the eldest is doing BSc Zoology in Triruvanmalai; Arun Kumar (19) is studying BA English at Voorhees College, Vellore. While the younger two- Manisha Devi (15) completed her ninth standard this year and Jay Kumar (12) is in the sixth standard at Society for Rural Development (SFRD), Guniganthur, Jawadhu hills.
All four went to the Adi Dravida residential primary school situated in the Kudigam village and were then sent to SFRD. From there the elder two siblings went to Government higher secondary school in Sathuvachari, Vellore and later to college for graduation. “Not many in the village have money to send their children to Vellore district to study, so my father borrowed money when Tamilselvi and Arun wanted to study after higher secondary,” said Manisha Devi, the third child of the couple who has taken a year’s break because of health issues. The parents are coffee plantation labourers who are seasonal migrants working in Kerala for Rs 440 and Rs 350 respectively per day. They have borrowed nearly Rs 3 lakh for Tamilselvi and Arun’s education with an interest rate of 12 per cent per annum.
“We have worked as coffee plantation labourers our entire life and only earned Rs 800 jointly per day, we never wanted our children to face the same penury and we felt education was the best way out”, says Magendran Ramalingam in a telephonic conversation. In order to lessen the burden on their parents both elder children work part time as home tutors to meet their needs and also contribute in re-paying the loans. Both Arun and his sister want to come back to the village and open a school to provide higher education to children.
“We have lived all our life outside home and it was not easy. Many children of my village are not getting education because their parents don’t want to send them away”, says Arun.
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