If teaching is a noble profession, K Ponmani Devi spent 32 long years of her life for this service. She started her career as a teacher at a government school in Erode district in 1964. After serving across the district for 32 years, she retired in 1996 as the headmistress of a government high school in Modachur in Gobichettipalayam taluk.
Now, 22 year later, at the age of 80, despite a feeble voice and unsteady legs, she continues to give generously for the cause of education. Her latest selfless gesture has been in donating close to 1 acre of land, which is worth Rs 4 crore, to a government girls school in Chithode for the construction of classrooms for students of Class 11 and 12. The school has classes only up to Class 10 and children would often stop their education as they could not travel to schools which were farther away.
Talking to TNM, the 80-year-old says, she has now dedicated her life to making it easier for girl children to get an education.
â€śI want to help the less fortunate, especially girl students. They already face so many difficulties in their attempts to studyâ€¦ travel shouldnâ€™t be one of them,â€ť she says.
Ponmani Devi herself struggled to study as her family was not too well off. She managed to do a B.Ed and take up a teacherâ€™s job. She and her husband then built their wealth together and had a son who eventually became a doctor. But tragedy struck and she lost them both to illness and an accident respectively.
Following this, she has been on a charitable streak and it has benefitted not just girl students.
In 2006, she transferred 25 cents of land to the backward classes welfare department which wanted to construct a hostel for boys and girls. Then in 2015, she donated Rs 2 lakh to the government when the education department took steps to upgrade the Chithode government girls high school to a higher secondary school.
â€śAs a teacher I was very strict and always ensured that my students studied and did their homework on time. I am not able to contribute that way, but this is something I can still do till I live,â€ť she says.
Parameswari, the headmistress of the Chithode government girls high school, says the new classrooms would be a welcome addition to the school.
â€śThe children who study here are wards of labourers and very poor people. For these first-generation learners, this contribution to their education will make a world of difference,â€ť she says.
Recently, the school authorities and the district administration conducted a function to honour Ponmani Devi in the presence of school education minister KA Sengottaiyan.