A.R. Palaniswamy

Ashoka Fellow
Bangalore - Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Fellow Since 1991

Citation

This profile was prepared when A.R. Palaniswamy was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
Children become secondary victims when a parent kills or is murdered. They are stigmatized and suffer psychologically, and the new pressure for them to supplement their families' lost income often forces them out of school and into menial labor.

Palanisamy believes that such children need much more than ordinary care or economic assistance. They need a new perspective on their lives, and a new source of values in order to develop into mature and self-respecting members of society, capable of dealing with the social stigmas attached to them.

Palanisamy's model approach is a boarding school for 300 of these children that provides vocational and academic training, laden with values to encourage a productive and honest life.

His school, located in the village of Mathur near Sriprambadur, Tamil Nadu, accepts children as young as three and offers them instruction through the age of 20. (Since the minimum time one can serve for murder is 15 years, most students will complete their education before their parent's release.) In addition to academic coursework, younger students get instruction in spinning, cloth and mat weaving, bag making, and saree embroidery. Older students take up carpentry, tailoring, horticulture, screen printing, and radio repair. Importantly, the school works to get its students practical apprenticeships to improve their skills and earn some income. The school opens a savings account in the name of each student, and the money he or she earns from work collects interest until graduation, at which time the student may withdraw it to start his or her new life after school.

Palanisamy's work also focuses on helping the children accept their paroled parents, a crucial step in reweaving the frayed threads of these families and helping the parent reintegrate into society.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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