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Overcoming all odds in their struggle for a secure future

Meera Srinivasan

Students of a Saligramam school lead difficult lives, yet are driven to come up in life

— PHOTO: S.S. KUMAR

Triumph of will: Toppers of vocational stream subjects at General Cariappa Higher Secondary School in Saligramam, Chennai, on Friday.

CHENNAI: For students and teachers of General Cariappa Higher Secondary School in Saligramam, it was time to celebrate on Friday, when the State Board class XII (HSC) examination results were declared.

The school has six State toppers in the vocational stream subjects — Draftsman (Civil), Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Equipment, and Photography.

Headmistress of the school M. Thirumani Vanitha says: The students of the government-aided schools are largely from very low economic backgrounds. “Most of our students’ fathers are daily wage earners and their mothers work as domestic help. The parents and children are determined to make a difference to their lives through education.”

R. Priyadarshini and K. Bhakiyalakshmi have bagged the first two State ranks in Draftsman (Civil), while G. Arulraj, S. Manojkumar and V. Silambrasan have secured the first three ranks in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Equipment. S. Suresh has topped the State in Photography.

Priyadarshini says she knew she would do well and is elated about the State rank. “I worked really hard … my mother works as a domestic help and she made sure I ate and slept well, even if there was no food for her,” she says.

Her father abandoned the family when she was barely six and since then, her mother Chandra has been toiling to ensure her daughter and son, now in Class VII, studied. “I am the first person to complete Class XII in my entire family. I wish to study engineering. But without financial support, it will not be possible.”

Ms. Chandra works in about four homes and earns less than Rs.2,000 per month. “On several days, we’ve gone to bed without having anything to eat. But my daughter worked so hard and is now eager to pursue higher education. But that will cost a lot and I don’t know if I will be able to send her to college,” she says.

Arulraj says he hopes to study computer science. “My father doesn’t live with us and my mother works at the checking point of an export company,” he says. His mother, too, has worked really hard to bring him up.

“Most children coming to our school lead very difficult lives. But their determination to do well and come up in life is amazing,” Ms. Vanitha says.

Success stories

The teachers motivate students by narrating success stories of alumni.

“One of our students completed his engineering, and then got placed in a top IT company. Now, he is doing very well in London,” she adds.

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