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Six girl tribal children at a Nilgiris village, who would have otherwise discontinued their studies and been married off by their parents, were encouraged by their teacher to finish Class 12. One of these girls participated in the Vijay TV Super Singer competition. Samudra Pandian, the teacher, has got two other tribal children get selected by an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) initiative to teach space science to 75 students in Tamil Nadu.

Samudra Pandian comes from Pandalur near Gudalur. His father died when he was a child and he was raised by his mother who worked in a tea plantation.

Samudra Pandian studied up to Class 12 in Pandalur. He wanted to become a teacher even at that time. But Class 12 wasn’t enough to make him teacher so he did a diploma course. Next year, he got an opportunity to study to become a teacher. Finishing the training in 1999, he got a job in 2000 as a Class 1 teacher at a high school at Karkudi in Nilgiris.

Samudra Pandian who helped talented Sitha participate in the Super Singer show on Vijay TV

Located close to the Mudumalai forest, Karkudi is home to kurumba tribes. Educated in Tamil medium, Samudra Pandian had a tough time initially. The kurumba children had their own language. The two couldn’t communicate. Then he started learning kurumba language so he could teach his students. He would ask kurumba folk in the village teach him words while speaking to him. This was an ice breaker for the children who started to pay attention since their teacher was talking to them in their own language.

He noticed that the children who came from the kattunayakkan community dropped out of school after reaching puberty. The community had the practice of marrying off the girls in their adolescence. On learning this, Samudra Pandian went to their village and asked the villagers to continue sending their children to school. They said that as daily wage earners in tea plantations and as honey collectors they couldn’t afford to send their children to school. But Pandian persisted.

Samudra Pandian, the teacher, has got two other tribal children to get selected by an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) initiative to teach space science to 75 students in Tamil Nadu

For the first time, eight girls – Janu, Durga, Meena, Sandhya, Sabitha and Subitha – from the kattunayakkan community finished their Class 8. To go further, Samudra Pandian got them admitted to the high school at Pitharkadu. He helped them get uniforms, books and notebooks. Samudra Pandian was then promoted and posted as head master of the Kothagiri tribal school. But those girl children continued their studies and are presently in Class 12.

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With help from organizations, Pandian has arranged vehicle service for the students who had to walk 5 km on forest road to go to school. He helped Sitha, who could sing well, participate in the Super Singer competition at Vijay TV. On Teachers Day, Samudra Pandian was there at the Pitharkadu school with uniforms, books and notebooks for the tribal children.

Samudra Pandian at a tribal village near Kothagiri

While these are the positive side of things, the negative is the lack of facilities for the students. He says that in the Kothagiri school where he is headmaster, there are some 100 students from Class 6 to 10. But there are only three teachers including Pandian. He says that since the school for tribal children comes under the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department, not under the education department, there is a shortage of teachers. He asks that the situation should be remedied.

The students were to be trained online and will get a chance to participate in a satellite launch. Two students at the Kothagiri school, G Rajan and D Revathi, have been selected to be among the 75 students from across the state

Learning that Indian Satellite Research Organization (ISRO) scientist Sivathanu Pillai has launched a project to train 75 students in Tamil Nadu, Samudra Pandian got his students to aspire for it. The students were to be trained online and will get a chance to participate in a satellite launch. Two students at the Kothagiri school, G Rajan and D Revathi, have been selected to be among the 75 students from across the state.

Also Read: First woman PG degree holder from Kurumbar tribe a crusader for tribals

Rajan says Samudra Pandian had made much difference to the Kothagiri school. While Rajan had heard of ISRO, Pandian encouraged him to apply for the programme which Rajan did.

Though enrolled in the programme, Rajan is unable to attend classes since cell phones don’t work where he lives. So Pandian attends the classes, takes notes and shares them with Rajan and Revathi. “Even now, I am talking to you (this reporter) because I came to a place where there is cell phone connectivity,” he signs off.


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