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No playground to call their own, but these tribal students in Mayiladuthurai make a mark in sports

Express News Service

MAYILADUTHURAI: The mood at Narikurava colony at Pallavarayanpettai in the district is still jubilant after two of its teenage residents triumphed at the state-level boxing competition held a few days ago.

Braving the odds, including custom which requires their tribal community folk to return home before dusk, the Class 8 girl students won a bronze medal in the sub-junior category. And they would only do better if their school has a playground to call its own, say their parents and teachers.

Of the six students from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Residential School – a Union government-funded institution — in Pallavarayanpettai who participated in the zonal-level meet in Thanjavur on May 1, two went on to qualify further and win bronze in the state-level meet during May 6-8 in Pudukkottai. Student C Dhanalakshmi won bronze in the 54-56 kg category while S Vennila won bronze in the 36-38 kg category at the meet held under the aegis of the Tamil Nadu Boxing Association.

“I had been practicing for a year. I was relaxed, thanks to the support of my parents, teachers, and trainers. I wish to become an excellent boxer like former world champion Mary Kom,” beams Vennila.

Her training, however, did not happen at school but at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) stadium at Rajan Thottam. While the school with a strength of over 100 students in Classes 1 to 8 – of whom a majority are from the Narikuravar and Adhiyan tribal communities — lacks a playground, its staff say they are left with no option but to take aspiring sportspersons to the SAI stadium, even to provide them with basic training.

C Sumathi, a 40-year-old Narikuravar bead seller and the mother of C Dhanalakshmi, perhaps echoes best the concerns adults from the community have in sending their children afar. “I am proud my daughter has won a bronze medal, and I am confident that she would win the gold medal in future. We are, however, still concerned about sending our children for training outside our colony. We request to provide our children with a school playground so that they can do better and bring more glory for the school.”

K Krishnaveni, the headmistress of the school, said, “We take the students to the stadium in autorickshaws in the evening, after convincing their parents. We ensure the women teachers travel along with the girls whenever we have to train them.”

Physical education teacher K Asaithambi, who along with trainer R Kubendiran, trained the students in boxing, too expressed the need for a playground for the school. “They would do far better if there is a playground where we can nurture their talents,” he said.

R Vijaysundaram, a trustee from NEED Trust that supports the school said, “The school was created with an objective to provide education for all, which includes nomadic tribes. Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan scheme officials should ensure proper fund allocation so that the students would shine not only in academics but also in extracurricular activities like sports.”

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