NO CHILD'S PLAY
THE WEEK|January 23, 2022
Tamil Nadu’s ambitious scheme is helping children fall back in love with learning
LAKSHMI SUBRAMANIAN

CHILDREN SIT TOGETHER and fold pieces of paper to create shapes. One child makes a model of a bird and calls it a parrot; another makes an identical model and calls it a sparrow. A third child sticks his creation to a toothpick and tries to tell a story. There are around 60 children in all, and all of them are gathered in a large meditation hall at the Buddhist centre at Erandam Kattalai near Kundrathur, on the outskirts of Chennai. Laughter fills the air as they play and learn together—something they had not been able to do since March 2020, when schools were shut because of the pandemic.

Volunteers Kavitha Murugan and Ashwini Selvaraj are busy singing, dancing and running around the hall with the children. “Let’s sing the finger rhyme,” says Kavitha to the group near her. At the other end of the hall, Ashwini talks to her group about birds. The hall has become a makeshift classroom, helping children learn at least a part of the lessons that they have missed. The exercise is part of the state government’s ambitious project called Illam Thedi Kalvi (Education at your doorstep).

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