Mahalakshmi and Sushasini

15 May, 2024

Mahalakshmi and Suhasini, siblings from Coimbatore’s Ammankulam area, were previously living near Vaalangulam Lake but were resettled to Ammankulam Housing Board flats in 2017 by the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board. Their parents, Manikandan and Kaleeshwari, are contract sanitation workers in Coimbatore Corporation’s Centre Zone. Subashini is in 6th grade, and Mahalakshmi is in 5th grade at St. Theresa Middle School, about 1 km from their home. Their parents’ work schedules make it difficult to provide consistent supervision and academic support, often resulting in the children staying home or the parents adjusting their shifts, impacting their schooling. However, in July 2023, when AEA launched the Enlight project in Ammankulam, both Mahalakshmi and Suhasini were enrolled in the CSC established in the area. This marked a turning point for the sisters. Both sisters started attending the CSC and underwent the initial child competency assessment, both receiving a ‘C’ grade. Recognizing their needs, the educational volunteer crafted individualized care plans for them, providing diligent guidance and support. The initial focus was on enhancing fundamental skills such as listening, speaking, reading, writing, and mastering basic mathematical operations. In the next assessment Mahalakshmi showed marginal improvement by moving from C to B grade while Suhasini improved her score from C to A level.

At a mothers’ gathering held at the Ammankulam Children’s Support Centre, Ms. Kaleeshwari conveyed her delight at witnessing the significant strides her children were taking. However, her primary concern was always their safety, especially given her job’s irregular hours and the frequent late shifts. She and her husband worked until 8 p.m. Kaleeshwari mentioned that she no longer worries about her children’s well-being after school. Kaleeshwari mentioned that she no longer frets about her children’s well-being after school. They now return home by 5 p.m., get ready, and then head to the child support center. There, an Education Volunteer supervises their learning in a secure environment. Kaleeshwari actively participates in mothers’ gatherings and activities to discuss their children’s engagements, programs, training, and academic advancements in the center. She leverages the center to inspire other mothers to enroll their children and participate in committee sessions.

The uncertainty surrounding after-school care and the safety of children is a significant concern for numerous parents and a leading cause of school dropout rates among children. The CSC consistently proves to be a haven for children and a blessing for parents who were unable to offer necessary support to their children, due to their work commitments. Children also prefer to go to CSC, instead of staying at home alone, eagerly awaiting their parents’ return.