Providing Books + Literacy Materials for Tuition (Free Tutoring) Centers ~ Tamil Nadu, India
Authors Gail Tsukiyama and Mary Roach joined teacher Gnanasekkaran and young readers at the free after school tuition center in Ellandoppu. This is one of 22 centers constructed and run by Save Int’l and Tamil Village Outreach. WaterBridge Outreach is partnering with these nonprofit organizations in its books + water programs in Tamil Nadu, Southern India. The residents of the villages where these tuition centers are located are either Dalits or Irulas, scheduled communities or castes formerly known as “untouchables”, a word that relates in many parts of India to the deeply rooted notions of “purity” and “pollution”. There was, and often still is, the idea that to be in contact with the “untouchables” pollutes the “purity” of “higher” communities or castes. Many of these residents have long experienced discrimination, live isolated lives on the edge of communities of the scheduled castes and for the most part, they are desperately poor. The free after school tuition centers play a crucial role in helping the children learn English and in preparing them for the 10th Standard exam. Curt Degler, president of Save Int’l, observes that learning English and passing that exam is essential if these Indian children are to have more of a chance in life.
In the photographs children are seen taking turns to read with Gail and Mary from books chosen and donated by WaterBridge Outreach. “The children loved the books and I was really impressed by the way the boys and girls had no hesitation in taking their turn to read out loud in English”, said Gail. “At home and in school they speak Tamil, so I was surprised to see the extent to which the after-school tuition centers are helping them learn English.”
WaterBridge Outreach has also completed water and development (school washroom) projects in several villages which also have tuition centers. By focusing on book and water projects together, WaterBridge Outreach continues to promote literacy and encourage children to become lifelong readers while trying to alleviate environmental challenges: hence our banner, “Books + Water- Nourishing the Mind and Body”.