The school of the second chance.

Lionel and Martine Mallard form a really surprising couple, behind these names uncommon fates are hiding. They left France with their two sons for sea travel around the world on a sailboat, built by Lionel. They have navigated all around the seven seas, before to settle in Pondicherry, where they have developed several activities. Among these activities, they have created an association, named APRES SCHOOL, dedicated to the education of tribal children from Tamil Nadu.

The tsunami of minds and its humanitarian consequences.

Settled in India since 1997, Lionel set up a company of sheep building, while Martine has launched an activity of furniture production. Through these activities, they have been in touch with many Tamil, for professional reasons. So they have discovered the culture of fishermen and handicraft workers.
Very linked to the maritime sector and concerned by the sea world, this couple of adventurers has lived from inside the Tsunami of December 24th 2004, which caused a lot of damages in Tamil Nadu. Because of this catastrophe, a deep aware awaking has spread among              Lionel and Martine Mallard
the international community, which sent a lot of NGO on the field.

*The mess and the lack of efficiency of NGOs

The sharp increasing of the sea level has had terrible consequences on fishermen villages in the coast and inside the lands. Indeed all the boats and many houses have been destroyed because of the flood. Unfortunately the NGOs haven’t the sufficient knowledge about the habits, the culture and the needs of these fishermen. That is why, they didn’t know what to give and to who. So every village located in the coast has been registered by the NGOs, and received a massive flux of various gifts.
These “lucky” villages started even to select these gifts because of the offer of weird items (suitcases for example). They also became stricter about their need for the quality of their boats for fishing. So motorboats have sharply increased in the fishermen community.
But by walking around the neighbors of these villages, Lionel and Martine became aware that a large part of the fishermen, living in more remote villages, don’t receive anything from NGOs. In front of such unfair treatment, Lionel, Martine and some of their friends decided to become more involved, to help these people.


*An individual awareness of solidarity, bringing good results.

Lionel and his wife, helped by the wife of the Consul and other friends, achieved to collect funds to ensure the primordial needs to these people (blankets, foods, clothes…). After these first emergency measures, this group of concerned friends, whose none was a professional of emergency help, set up the association: Pondy Pecheurs. This association aims to give to these abandoned families, the needful tools to get back to work, and by this way becoming financially independent as soon as possible. A project in collaboration with fishermen was born, the association provided the materials and the boat plans, but let the population the task to build the boats.
In the same time with this important boat production (around 100 boats produced of different models), this group of involved have noticed a crucial lack of education for a large part of children from injured poor or low-caste families. That is why, they have created another association: Pondy School, which offer to support an unprivileged child, in order to give him another chance thanks to education.
This new organization is the first step of the association in the helping process to ease the access to education for unprivileged children. This idea will be developed deeper, until to the building of a school, some years later.

The second breath of APRES.

Since 1999, the sister of Lionel, Noëlle Duteil (wife of Yves Duteil) was managing a NGO, created by her husband. Indeed Yves Duteil created it after a big fire in Corsica, in order to warn and to bound fire consequences. The APRES association (Association for the Replantation of Disasters Areas) has been the most active association in this field, and even pushed the French Parliament to adopt a new forest orientation law.
But times spending and the association became to be a little bit less active that is why Lionel and his sister Noëlle have decided to group together their humanitarian structures. So they kept the name APRES, but changed the meaning to become Assistance to Population and Rehabilitation of Disasters Spaces. By this way, the new organization of the association was defined and gives its priority to the education access for unprivileged children.     

In India, there are tribal people with no castes, who are absolutely excluded from the rest of the population, because of their religion different from the Vedic tradition. These descendants of Aborigine people can mostly survive thanks to the selling of necklaces or bracelets or by begging. The fate of children became then rather difficult. That is why the Mallard and their friends have decided to take care of children from Irulas (snake hunters) and Nari (Kuruvar (fox hunters), by giving them a better and a fuller education.
But because of the semi nomadism of their parents, the education of these children could only take place in a framework, grouping together a school, accommodations, canteen and entertainment areas. This is where the idea of offering to these lost and marginalized kids another extraordinary chance, will become reality. Indeed the concept of APRES School is offering to them suitable frameworks and innovative learning methods, in order to make them mentally independent, and being able to do their own choice and becoming the real actors of their lives.

How to build a school for tribal children in Tamil Nadu?

It is important to keep in mind, that this project has been fully lead by individualities, who were sensitive to the unfair exclusion human being, because of ethnic reason. They have all been motivated by solidarity and justice, which let them to jump above all barriers, even if nobody was accustomed of this kind of project. This incredible human adventure promises a lot of adventures to the Malard and their friends, who have to stay focus on the essential and by working with the available means.

*An epic building.

The first main difficulty has been to find a land available and not too expensive. So it wasn’t possible to find it in Pondicherry that is why a land in Tamil Nadu has been chosen. The plans could be first seem unrealistic , but finally everything has been built except the administrative area, because of the lack of funds.

The building site was going well, better than the administrative process. Indeed, it seems that the development and the help of NGOs is not a priority of the Indian government. So the particularities linked to the building of a school are often rather surprising.                                           

The APRES SCHOOL plans  

For example, the classrooms must be located at least at 40cm above the road level, or the obligation to build a wall all around the school.

            Except the legal obligations, there are also moral obligations linked to the promises of the associations to the donators. For example, the city of La Rochelle made a gift, dedicated only to the building of a swimming pool. It would be tempting to use this money to more elementary needs, but if you want to be victorious you have to do compromises. Then after two years of administrative struggle, the school has been inaugurated in February 2009 by Yves Duteil, the creator of APRES (click here to see the pictures of the inauguration). This is now all the learning and teaching strategy, which has to be set up.

*The full hosting of the unprivileged children.

When the children arrive in the school, they do a medical and scholar check-up. The results are rather alarming, because the futures school kids are almost all analphabets and infected by louses or gall. By giving to them hygiene values and by offering them sanitary structures, these kids discover the joy to have their own toothbrush and to take care of themselves.
In the same time to the hosting and the formation of teachers, the school features with a library, a swimming pool (coming soon), gardens, canteen, accommodations for teachers and children…These frameworks let now the hosting of 60 children to evolve and to live peacefully, and 200 children can be hosted in the future.
In order to take care of its protected kids, the school also owns a small medical service, to cure all the small problems of children. There is also a driver in case of medical emergency. An agreement has been signed with a private hospital, which offers a part of the cures and a big discount in case of heavy treatments  

The School buildings                       (scanners, surgery…)

            *A pedagogic method based on the philosophy of Krishnamurti.
The ABL method (Activity Based Learning) aims to open the curiosity of children, and then their will of learning. In order to achieve that, the school proposes playing activities and classrooms inspiring trust and inviting children to exchange with the teacher and between them. The goal of this method is to be able “to form future citizen with criticize mind, able to fight against every kind of subjugation, ready to ensure responsibilities, able to innovate and to built their future”.
This honorable project is in fact very innovative in its way of learning. For example, classrooms are radically different from what we know. Indeed there are several tables in the classroom, and each of them has its specificity (discovering table, exchange with other children or with the teacher, learning table, evaluation table). Each child goes from a table to another according his will, owning his own black board and making progress according his own rhythm. To recognize the level of progression of the children, we give them cards of different colors; each color represents a level of knowledge, but without giving to them a competitor mental.

 The classroom with the blackboard.

The games and the discovering workshop take also a big place in this formation process. Indeed, as they have lived almost always in the lack, these kids have developed very early a high competitor mental. That is why, they are almost always in the confrontation with each other, but by playing and discover things together, it let them to awake and to ease their senses.  
A chess set between children and a teacher.

Sport and body movements in the space are also studied with dancing lessons, theater courses, circus or classic sports (volley, badminton, cricket, kite…). And for example, a fireworks maker from Marseille came to show his work to the fascinated children. A day to Savana Forest, an Aurovillian community dedicated to the plantation and the save of trees, has been organized. During this day, the children haven’t planted and hugged trees, in order to give them a notion of eco friendly.

Fascinated children looking at the fireworks

These ideal conditions are only possible thanks to the personal investment of voluntary workers and of the school staff, the desire to learn of children, the generosity of donators and the pugnacity of the APRES School leaders.

Children hugging trees in Auroville.

This kind of project light on the hope in everyone, that it is possible to act concretely for the building of a fairer society, where everyone could choose his own life, whatever his ethnic or social origin. Unfortunately the fact that this mission is mostly undertaken by NGOs shows well the lack of interest and sensibility from governments, to solve these inequalities between human beings.

            If you want more information about APRES School, you can visit the follow links:

- http://www.apresschool.org
- http://www.pondy-pecheurs.org
- http://www.yvesduteil.com/

By  Guillaume LAISSE for www.toutpondi.com