10 year old Murali lost his entire family to tuberculosis but for his elder brother, who was making a living by selling beads in Devarayanagar, near Trichy. Murali, who was then in class V, dropped out of school and joined his brother's business because he could not afford to pay the school fees.
Murali belongs to the Narikuravar (gypsy) community. This community has been living in Devarayanagar for more than 30 years. The main occupation of the people, who originally belong to the indigenous tribes, is hunting. But as they were prohibited to entry into the forests to puruse this livelihood, they were forced to take up other alternatives such as selling beaded ornaments to survive. Hence they migrate from place to place to find a market for their beads. Children accompany the adults wherever they go, which means they never get to attend school.
Murali was one such victim of migration, who was forced to leave school because of the circumstances - till the Narikuravar Education Welfare Society (NEWS) intervened. NEWS in a project supported by CRY - Child Relief and You - and works for the education and welfare of this particular community. Started in 1990 the organisation acquired one acre of land from the local Public Works Department, and has constructed a hostel for children of the Narikuravar community so that they can stay in the hostel and continue their studies at the nearby government school while their parents travel from place to place.
Mahendiran, who belongs to this community, had studied up to the Higher Secondary level. He had grown to see the miserable condition of these children who were deprived of education because of their parents' trade and wanted to do something to help these chidden. That motivation led to the founding of NEWS. "Our community has been considered 'untouchable' for long" says Mahendiran, "we plan to change the situation".
When NEWS heard about Murali's situation, they decided to come to his rescue. After repeated counseling sessions the boy was restored to school. Now Murali studies in class VIII in St. Joseph College, Trichy.
CRY - Child Relief and You
57/ 2, P.S Sivaswamy Salai,
Mylapore, Chennai - 600 004.
Tel - 044-24672241/ 1828.
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