When many schools turned to digital education during the lockdown, Ajeerah Khaleeldeen (51), the principal of Kattankudy Hairath Vidyalaya, had to come up with an innovative approach to teach. Her students were mostly from bereft families where parents could not afford internet services for online lessons nor did they have smartphones. She says, “The children required a mentor to guide them during the lockdown. Most parents of my students are illiterate and cannot help them education-wise. If we did not intervene, it is highly likely they’ll drop out of school and be deprived of a good future”. Thus, Ajeerah wanted to maximise whatever opportunity she had to reach out to these kids.
She took matters into her own hands and decided to take the “school to their doorsteps”. She obtained a curfew permit that would allow her to venture outdoors for 2 hours every day. At 10 a.m., she will set out distributing model papers, books and handouts explaining Covid regulations for the students and receiving answer sheets to monitor progress. Every day she covered as many families as possible on a motorbike heading to the most derelict parts of villages.
Ajeerah’s “mobile school system” helped reach vulnerable children ensuring there was an equal right for education despite one’s socio-economic class. Her commitment to students and education comes from her own telltale experience. She says, “we have faced many adversities in our community, from the war to natural hazards which claimed properties, livelihoods, physical and mental health. But the only thing it could never claim was knowledge and a sound education.”