The Tamil Nadu government has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the United States-based Tamil Nadu Foundation to reduce the number of school dropouts in the state's villages.
The MoU was signed on May 29, during the TNF's 35th national convention at the Valley Forge Convention Center, Philadelphia. M Kutralingam, principal secretary, school education department, Tamil Nadu, signed it in front of 1,500 Tamils and applauded them for helping to educate underprivileged children.
In a video message to the convention delegates, Tamil Nadu Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu said, "I am very glad that the TNF has decided to undertake school education in Tamil Nadu as its focus project. The government of Tamil Nadu is grateful to the American Tamil community for their support to TNF's focus project. We are looking forward to working with TNF in strengthening the state's school education system."
The minister's wife Manimegalai Thennarasu, a child sociologist, participated in the convention and lauded the humanitarian and educational support provided by non-resident Tamils through the TNF.
TNF President Dr Rammohan said the project will include counseling of students and parents to ensure continuation of schooling and bring back dropouts to government and government-aided schools.
He added that the TNF's vision is to motivate the rural children to stay in schools and help bring down the current dropout rate of 43 percent in high schools.
Somalay Somasundaram, chairman of the convention, said the project is a joint effort with several Tamil organisations including the Michigan Tamil Sangam, the Chicago Tamil Sangam, the Tamil Association of Greater Delaware Valley, the Dallas Metroplex Tamil Sangam, the Houston Bharathi Kalai Mandram, the South Carolina Tamil Sangam, the TNF's Georgia Chapter and the Bay Area Tamil Manram.
The organisations conducted regional charity events to help prevent school dropouts in Tamil Nadu, Somasundaram said.
The convention honoured Nita Umashankar of Tucson, Arizona with the TNF Service Excellence Award for her work in rescuing women and children from the sex trade in Tamil Nadu.
Maduhmita Parmar, a high school student from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, won the TNF Service Excellence Award for Youth for community service -- from helping Katrina victims to promoting traditional Ayurveda medicine in Rajasthan.
The audience gave a rousing reception to six-year-old Abirami Chinnakaruppan of Macungie, Pennsylvania, as she received the TNF Service Excellence Award for Children. Abirami donated her birthday gifts to blind children in New Jersey.
Service Excellence Awards were presented to Y Gee Mahendra, A Vedaratnam, A M Swaminathan and Mani Balu.