#GoodNews: 12-Yr-Old TN Boy Nominated For Award Won By Malala
This 12-year-old boy is the youngest nominee for the International Peace Prize for Children 2017.
An inspiration, an example, a catalyst of change… These are the words used to describe a 12-year-old boy in Tamil Nadu, who has managed to bring one of the biggest gifts possible to his community: the gift of education to 25 children, just like him.
Born into the nomadic Narikuruvar community in Tiruvannamalai district, Sakthi, through the strength of his will, has managed to convince several families in his tribe to send their kids to school.
And for his efforts, he has been nominated for the International Peace Prize for Children for the year 2017.
The award has been previously won by Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and given to children who contribute significantly for the rights and upliftment of vulnerable minors.
How Sakthi Went To School
Sakthi, who has five other siblings, was eight years old when he decided to leave school. He faced repeated abuse at the hands of teachers in government schools and was constantly on the move with his parents to make a living. He had resigned himself to a future of selling beads and begging.
In 2014, an NGO called Hand-in-Hand identified Sakthi's community in Tamil Nadu as marginalised and approached them, asking them to send their children to their training sessions. This was aimed at eventually include dropouts in mainstream education. This program was partially funded by the government's Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (Universal Education Scheme).
But it was not an easy task. Sakthi’s family was among the few families who agreed to their terms.
I was playing with the boys when my uncle came and made me join the Bharathiyar school. There were four of us. We used to keep crying and wondering why we were forced to go there.Sakhti
This centre was near his tribe's settlement, but soon he had to be shifted to a Residential Special Training Centre (RSTC) in Poongavanam.
‘He Has Transformed The Community’
At Poongavanam, teachers focussed on helping these children catch up with subjects. They were also given lessons in everyday hygiene. From wearing tattered clothes and looking dirty and unkempt, Sakthi went on to become a stickler for cleanliness, and practiced what he was taught even at home.
“When I go looking so decent during Diwali or Pongal, other parents see me and ask where I am from. I tell them I eat well, sleep well and study well. I tell them that if we study well then we don’t have to slog it out in the fields. That convinces other parents, and they want their children to join the school as well,” says Sakhti.
Through sheer determination, this young child brought a steady flow of tribal children to the school. The community, which neglects the education of girl children, was now ready to send even their daughters to school.
His achievement was not small and Hand in Hand, which has seen the difficulties its volunteers face on-ground to convince these families, decided it had to be recognised.
Sakthi not only transformed himself, but he also brought a great change in his community. That is why we decided to nominate him for the award. He is the youngest among all 169 nominees for the award.Dr Kalpana Shankar, Founder, Hand-in-Hand
Sakthi is now being called a 'catalyst for change', but he is not satisfied with the work he has done.
“The way I made 25 people join, I want more to come. The children I brought will go back to their hometowns and bring their relatives and friends. Twenty-five should become 30, 30 should become 40 and so on. They will all bring more people,” he says. “I will teach them to be like me, to act like I do. Then they will study like me and inspire more people,” the 12-year-old promises.
Sakthi is currently out of the residential training programme and studies at a government school in Kanchipuram district. His education is funded and he stays in a hostel. He aims to be a software engineer and says he wants to work hard for his family.
I don’t want them to suffer this way for a livelihood. When I grow up, I will take my mother in an AC car even to the well and bring her back by car. I will make sure my family is happy.Sakhti
And as for the award? Sakthi is blissfully unaware of its significance. For him, the desire to uplift his entire community comes without any want for recognition.
"It just goes to show that even the smallest of charities can lead to a sea of change," says the co-founder of Hand in Hand.
(This article was originally published on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)
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