A bunch of students diligently apply powder on their faces, standing in front of the newly installed mirror in the Kuttiyar Government School of Kanyakumari district. Dressed in brand new green shirts and green trousers, a few other boys are focused on parting their hair to perfection with the newly bought combs. Students of this government school now start their day only after going through this morning grooming routine.
Sitting amidst rows of tall trees, this modest government school in the tribal village of Kuttiyar is a cheerful sight with its newly painted walls featuring pictures of popular cartoon figures and famous personalities. The freshly painted wall is not the only new addition the school has to boast of. The school has recently had a facelift with new walls and roofs, a solar-powered smart classroom and a brand new library. Samson, an inspector on ‘Naxal Duty’ in the district, is the man behind all these impressive changes.
Speaking to TNM, Inspector Samson says, “The school was in a pitiable condition with a drab and unclean environment. Even the students were in a sorry state with their torn clothes and shoes. Seeing all this, I wanted to bridge the gap in education between the private schools and government schools. With the help of many other social welfare organisations, we were able to achieve what we did for the school.” Inspector Sam, an ardent propagator of the Right to Education, feels that quality education is the right way to enforce positive changes in society.
Inspector Sam is a former student of a government aided school in Tuticorin. He says that students of government schools usually lack confidence because of their financial background and lack of opportunities. He adds, “Even such a simple thing as dressing up well to school is a luxury for them. They come barefooted with faded clothes which affects their confidence level. In an effort to boost their confidence, we gave them all brand-new uniforms and shoes to promote a sense of belonging to the school.” His team also installed a mirror stand with powder boxes, combs and nail cutters as part of their efforts to boost their sense of wellbeing and confidence.
Speaking to TNM, the former principal of Kuttiyar Government School, Raffael, says, “I am truly very thankful to God for giving these tribal children access to good education in their own village. Every child must be given equal opportunity for growth. Now, even these tribal children have become adept at using computers. The true success of all these changes can be seen in the students’ change in attitude. They no longer feel ignored or marginalised. They have developed a sense of self-importance in them. They have started to believe they matter too.”
Principal Raffael is the man who reached out to Inspector Sam for his support.
Principal Raffael although happy with all the changes, says there is still scope for improvement. The school now offers education only up to 8th grade. Being the only school in the Kuttiyar village, this has resulted in many tribal children terminating their education after 8th grade. He hopes the government takes note of this and upgrades the school.
Good Samaritan cop
Inspector Sam is no ordinary cop on duty. Serving the police force for the past 19 years, Inspector Sam has broken free from the hard and hostile image usually associated with cops. A cop especially fond of children, he goes on regular school visits to enforce good civic habits in children. As one such practice, he goes to school with a dustbin and chocolates and after distributing the chocolates to children, he insists that they put the chocolate wrappers only in the dustbin.
While admitting that being stringent is part of his duty, he says it’s only one facet of his job. Recalling one such incident, he says that he once received a complaint from a bunch of women about a troublesome man in a remote village. On further inspection, he realised that the man was suffering from a mental illness. He took the man to a psychiatrist, and the latter was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Sam personally saw to his treatment and recovery.
Inspector Sam has taken to heart the oft-quoted phrase, “with great power comes great responsibility.” One of the common complaints he receives is of alcoholic men. Instead of thrashing them up or giving them a one-off warning, Inspector Sam sends them to Alcoholics Anonymous, a de-addiction centre. A few of them have recovered from the addiction.
Inspector Sam also has some interesting quirks up his sleeves. He says he often hands out chocolates and biscuits to people who follow road rules as a token of appreciation. “When we fine those who break traffic rules, it’s only fair that we give rewards to people who follow them.” However, he also admits his job is not always filled with rosy moments. “Being a cop comes with its own power and challenges. When situations demand utmost stringency, we don’t hesitate to deliver it. In the end, the only guiding principle of my job is upholding the law.”
All images courtesy Priya Saravana