29 November, 2020

A mid-day meal for the mind—for kids who start their workday at dawn

Satish Kumar
A mid-day meal for the mind—for kids who start their workday at dawn
A massive nine-acre campus, abundant trees, a vast playground, an optional open-air classroom that lets you feel the breeze or listen to the chirping of birds, teachers who would never hit the most unbehaved child, lunch in the afternoon.... and all this absolutely free. The Olcott Memorial High School might not make it to a Top-10 schools list in Chennai, but for its 700-plus students, it’s the best. This Tamil-medium school was founded in 1894 by theosophist Henry Steel Olcott with the objective of providing education to the less-privileged. A mission that continues to this day. Col Olcott established a number of "Panchama Free Schools", as they were known then. Decades after his death, they were all merged into one school catering to poor children in the Adyar area.

Most children walk to the school from the nearest slum, while others from in and around Adyar use free bus passes. Nobody is dropped by scooters or cars. Nor do they lug a heavy load of books. Lunch is provided on the campus (though students complain it is bland). In fact, even if you miss breakfast, you can...



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