Chinnakattupalayam, located at 17 km south of Puducherry, is surrounded by 9 villages. Their 9,000 inhabitants are mostly illiterate and economically underpriviledged. They have precarious jobs with no future. Traditional housing, basic and fragile, is dominant.
For their children’s future, parents have a choice between public schools (60 to 80 students per classroom) or private establishments (distant and expensive).
As an alternative, Vellai Thamarai proposes a quality education that is accessible and free of charge with classes of 20 students.
For these children, boys and girls on a parity basis, this education disrupts the recurring of precocious and unqualified work.
Chinnakattupalayam, the village.
The village runs along the track going from the Puducherry-Cuddalore road to the Vellai Thamarai School. Each household has an average of 4 occupants including one school-aged child and only one income (25 € to 35 € monthly).
Houses are connected to free public electricity that experiences daily power cuts. The village has 2 public water pumps.
The system: Public school / Private school
According to current regulations school is now mandatory in India.
• Government (public) schools are free, but uniforms and the bulk of school supplies are not. For the poorest families these costs are high. The son’s education becomes the priority, which tends to perpetuate inequality between boys and girls. Kindergarten and primary classes have 50 to 80 students.
• Private schools are varied in quality and importance. They have tuition fees with an admission charge, to which an annual cost of 5,000 to 50,000 Rupees (INR) is added (60€ to 600€). This sum includes uniforms, school supplies, meals and private bus services. These schools grow in number as the standard of living rises.
Selection of students at the Vellai Thamarai School
Vellai Thamarai runs regular surveys in villages: for each candidate family, the age and number of siblings, and their parents’ situation, profession and income are noted down. In this way, the school applies its ‘’poorest first” policy and its gender parity principle.