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Siragu Montessori School , Chennai
About: Siragu Montessori School is a school in Chennai, India. It was started on June, 2003 to provide free education for homeless and under-privileged children. SIRAGU Montessori School is a unit of Suyam started in June 2003. It was started for children of the scheduled tribes (pavement dwellers and mendicants). Traditionally carrying on the practice of begging, this community never had any real opportunities for breaking out of their situation. Siragu was started with the objective of providing education to first generation learners. SIRAGU started not only for street children but also for children from brick chambers. Siragu Montessori School began in locally rented premises. The condition of the building was quite poor (eighty years old, poor upkeep, no roof, vermin infested) but volunteer assistance garnered by Suyam helped make it habitable. There are now 400 children, 105 of which are inmates of Siragu home. The school has adopted the Montessori Method of education. The school has 13 teaching staff and 9 non-teaching staff. Nadaipathai Pookkal Program (Flowers of the Pavement): This program is for families having settlements in Palavedu Pettai, but residing in pavements around Kilpauk Water Tank for around 30 years. These families are involved in begging. Since 1999, Siragu adopted these families (initially 50 families). Siragu has provided the community in Kilpauk and Palavedu Pettai with education, medical facilities (including family planning counselling), counselling for de-addiction, child care, resolution of family problems, and with empowerment through employment generation (self and external employment) schemes and setting up self help groups. Impact: Siragu Montessori School has stopped begging among children in the Nadaipathai Pookkal community, except for three children who are still begging because of parental pressure. These three children attend Siragu School but are absent at times and also beg on Saturday and Sunday. We have 82 first generation learners, including those from Nadaipathai Pookkal program. Siragu Montessori School provides a six month bridge course for 50 children from 10 brick kilns in Palavedu Panchayat. We motivate them to learn, and to join mainstream schools in their villages. In Shastri Nagar, among the Nadaipathai Pookkal, many families try to provide at least one quality meal a day to the children. Parents started keeping track of their child's development, and interacted with school staff and management to address child related issues. School has become a priority for the parents, even above their rituals and ceremonies, and the levels of absenteeism have come down.