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G. Sowmiya, 23, is the first graduate in Thamarai Oorani village in Ramanathapuram district. In a village notorious for refusing to send girls outside for higher education, what Sowmiya has done is indeed a breakthrough which has rubbed off on two or three more girls who, following suit, are now studying in colleges away from their village.
Having studied in the Ramanathapuram government model school (formerly Elite School), a special initiative by then Ramanathapuram collector R Nandakumar. Sowmiya pursued B.E. (Computer Science) in the Chromepet MIT, Chennai.
Thamarai Oorani, situated under Panaikkulam panchayat in Ramanathapuram district, consists of just 50 houses. There is neither a school nor a hospital in the village whose everyday provision needs are catered to by a couple of petty shops. For large shopping, the people have to walk one and half km to Panaikkulam.
Sowmiya’s father Govindaraj is a construction worker and mother Rajeswari was a vegetable vendor. With the family scraping out a living, her two elder sisters were married off at young age and younger sister Kavya is searching for job in Chennai after getting BCA.
Sharing her life story with Inmathi, Sowmiya said that she had studied from Class 1 to 10 through Tamil medium in the government school at Puduvalasai, walking one km every day.
“As my mother took ill, my elder sisters took care of cooking and other household chores till their marriage. After they got married, I took over the domestic works from the time I was studying in Class 7. As I was busy with domestic work, I had no time in the evening and at night for study. So, I used to get up at four in the morning and read lessons. After finishing off the morning work at home, my sister and I would go to school,” she said.
As the government announced it would bear her educational expenditure, she was given green signal to pursue her dream in Chennai
“For poor people like us, it is education that will uplift us, I believed. So, battling heavy odds, I pursued education passionately. I was interested in sports too. I got the second prize at the zonal tournament for shot put. Right from Class 1 to 10 in my school, I excelled in studies and got the first rank always. I was the school topper, having scored 476 out of 500 marks in the Class 10 exams in 2014. I am indebted to my teachers Gunarathinam, Azhagesan and Tirumuguran who encouraged and supported my studies,” she said.
About her higher secondary education, Sowmiya said she pursued maths, chemistry, physics and biology in Class 11 in the government model residential school in Ramanathapuram. “Teachers such as Navaneetha Krishnan, Arumugam etc. gave me educational and moral support. I got 1,141 out of 1,200 marks in the 2016 Class 12 exams,” she said.
Armed with centum in maths and chemistry, she got a seat in the Tiruchi agri colleges and also a seat in computer science course at Chromepet MIT through counselling. But she grabbed the latter. Initially her family was reluctant to send her to Chennai for higher studies for two reasons: One pertaining to expenses and the other to the village convention against women’s education.
However, as the government announced it would bear her educational expenditure, she was given green signal to pursue her dream in Chennai. “Unfortunately my educational scholarship stopped after two years. So my father had to borrow heavily as we could not get bank loans. In the meantime, my mother became a heart patient and our family expenses shot up. We had to face the bills running. At last in the final year of my college education, I got my scholarship dues which helped me clear the debts incurred for my education,” she said.
The mother is now nowhere to see for herself how her daughter has made her dream come true. As she said these words, Sowmiya could not hide the lump in her throat and a tiny teardrop sticking on to her eyelashes
Coming as she did from a village in the southern Tamil Nadu, she found it quite a task to pick up lessons taught in English. However, over time she managed to overcome the hiccups owing to her room-mates and classmates’ help. She finished her course in 2020 with 80 percentage of marks and through campus interviews, got a software engineer job in E2 Infosys. “I quit the job and joined the Project Management Unit of the School Education Department. I have been visiting the government model schools in various parts of the State and collecting data on the girl students’ learning skills. I have been meeting girls and motivating them to pursue education seriously. Moreover, I have been taking care of the work related to alumni associations in the government model schools,” said Sowmiya.
Having traversed all the way from a marginalized family in a tiny village to the metro, battling heavy odds, Sowmiya has one more dream: to pursue post-graduation in a foreign university. She has been looking for an opportunity with hope, she said, adding that her mother, who wanted and encouraged her to pursue education relentlessly and come up in life, is no more now. The mother is now nowhere to see for herself how her daughter has made her dream come true. As she said these words, Sowmiya could not hide the lump in her throat and a tiny teardrop sticking on to her eyelashes.
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