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A teacher who leads by example


Chennai: A teacher is a change-maker, proves 37-year-old Sripriya, teacher in a government-aided school at Elephant Gate in Chennai. In her 18-year experience, she has produced several good students, from a business manager in Africa to a hotelier in Chennai. She taught to not just score marks in exams, but also live a meaningful life. “Leading a life without hurting others is discipline. I taught this to my children,” says Sripriya who is always called ‘Amma’ by her students. Swami Vivekanan­da’s ardent follower, Ms Sripriya doesn’t believe in ‘things-take-time’ attitude. She told her children twice that their classrooms and toilets should be clean.

When they failed to keep them clean, she took up the task herself. “When I cleaned the classroom and toilets, my children felt the pain. Now, they keep their rooms immaculately clean,” she said with joy. According to her, teachers should be good listeners first. “Compared to adults, children suffer severe mental stress. Unless we listen and help them to overcome their problems, we would never be able to teach any useful lessons. One of my students was a drug addict. He did not have any attention from his parents at home. I listened to him and told him I would be his good friend and a foster mother and he could share his problems with me. He opened up and told me his worries. He is a successful entrepreneur in Chennai now,” Ms Sripriya recalls triumphantly.
Several students who went astray returned to the right path when the teacher lent them her ears. Inspired by her, a team of her old students, under the banner of ‘Gold Heart Founda­tion’, has started tuition centers for underprivileged children. Presently, they teach in 17 orphanages and eight slums. Celebr­ating Deepavali with children from juvenile homes, organising children’s day for poor children, conducting blood donation camps, counselling depressed children are her special interests.
Her husband Hari and son Niranjanan, a class 9 student, have understood Ms Sripriya’s inclination to serve people, and, so, support her at home. Recently, she received a saree from an old student who studied under her 12 years ago, from abroad, and says it was a priceless gift. Now her foundation has been chosen by the city corporation to spread awareness among Chennaiites to stop dumping garbage in public places. Ms Sripriya can be contacted on 9884629206.

Techies during the day, teachers by night


CHENNAI: It's 6pm on a week day in a crowded north Chennai neighbourhood. Some residents are chatting with neighbours, others are watching television. But on the cramped terrace of a house, 40 children are listening in rapt attention to their tutor. The students in the 'grooming centre' near a pencil factory in Parry's, are all from nearby slums and learn science and maths during the week and yoga, spoken English, computers and fabric painting during weekends.
The teachers are techies from different parts of the city. "We want them to understand the basic subjects, but at the same time it's good to learn skills that can help them earn a living," says V Yuvaraj, a techie and a member of the Gold Heart Foundation, which runs the grooming centre.
Yuvaraj, despite his busy schedule, visits the centre thrice a week. "I teach them computers with the available resources and help with spoken English," he says. Saturdays are for activities such as pot painting and jewellery-making, says G Laxmi Narayanan, another volunteer. The aim is to make learning fun by incorporating in the students' regular activities and team-building exercises that are in vogue in the corporate world.
The volunteers are trying to identify special talents in children in juvenile homes to help them get better. "It's difficult to develop a bond with the children, but they need the attention," he says. Gold Heart Foundation was launched in 2007 by G Sripriya, a government-aided school teacher, to help children from a neighbouring school. "There were class 10 students who asked me to teach them the alphabet," says Sripriya. Two years ago, she found the techies who wanted to volunteer for the cause and the Parry's centre came up in 2011. Now, they've centres at a school in Elephant Gate, the Government Home for Boys in Royapuram and a village in Kalasapakkam.