Both Babu Mathew, 49, and his wife Litty George, 43, of Elanji in Piravom, Kerala have been on a silent but arduous campaign to ensure mental well-being of children in pre-adolescent age especially those studying in government schools in Kerala.
Since 2010, they have been conducting a voluntary mission to help children, belonging to lower strata of the society, to successfully deal with emotional volatility and become more emotionally literate. Their task was to make the children cope up with the changing times and prepare them to come up in life.
They conducted a study in 67 government upper primary schools in the state covering over 20,000 students and their parents. Based on their study and its findings, they designed a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) module for pre-adolescents and adolescents to successfully deal with emotional volatility and become more emotionally literate.
They zeroed in on Attappady in Palakkad and started working on the children belonging to tribal families for their upliftment. After years of hard work, their efforts yielded positive results when four tribal boys -R Vishnu, R Aneesh, N Binuraj and M Midhin – passed out of Sainik School Kazhakootam (SSKZM) recently with flying colours.
“Attappady gave us an opportunity to experiment with a fully SEL embedded learning environment in empowering the most vulnerable of communities in a remote setting,” said Babu Mathew.
The four students were part of a group of 24 students out of which seven made it to Sainik School. These students were provided guidance and counselling by the couple as part of a programme called “Project Shine” which they along with their 1991 SSKZM batchmates launched in memory of their batchmate Shine P Baby, a lecturer of Kalamassery Rajagiri College who passed away in 2006.
“Things were not that easy for us because it was hard to convince the families of the tribal villages about our programme. We spent seven months in Attapadi interacting with the children preparing them for the entrance exam. Though we could send seven children to SSKZM after they cleared the entrance exam, three dropped out in between due to various reasons,” said Babu Mathew,49, a developmental psychologist. Babu Mathew is actively supported by his wife Litty George who is a data analyst.
From 2015 – 2020, the couple supported and empowered 374 students of which 16 were placed in Sainik School and 29 in Navodaya Schools. Close to another 45 joined various Model Residential Schools run by the tribal Department across Kerala.
“Our SEL module gave the children more exposure and helped them in adapting to changing circumstances. We could work for such a long time in Attapadi because of the active support of the members of the 1991 SSKZM Alumni batch. Though 11 tribal students from Attappadi have earlier cleared Sainik School entrance, not one completed the tenth standard. We could ensure that these four students passed out from Sainik School because of our tremendous effort and continued interaction with the families and the children,” he said.
“We hope to continue with our project to uplift the children belonging to tribal settlements but we need support and resources for it,” Babu Mathew added.