C. Nesyan is beaming when he talks about his son. Niksan is 19 and starting his second year at James College of Engineering. The four-year course in mechanical engineering will cost Rs 200,000
which includes tuition and exam fees, costs for books, transport and the required college uniform.
It’s a lot of money for Nesyan who is a rubber tapper and earns about Rs 12,000 a month. In the yard behind the house his wife, Pushpalila, keeps six cows. Three are milking at present, yielding
15 litres a day. Pushpalila gets Rs 30 per litre and she sells the cow dung as well. But it’s the Fair Trade education grant that really helps with Niksan’s college fees. The Fair Trade committee
is strict: to be eligible a student has to provide a detailed bill from the college and do well academically – only with marks above 60% the annual grant will be given. For a course like the one
Niksan takes the joint body has just raised the grant from Rs 8,000 to 10,000 a year. A graduation course grant comes to Rs 3,125 p.a., a nursing course Rs 5,000 p.a.. Students can be given a
grant every term and if several children of one family attend further education, each is eligible.
Nesyan knows the rules by heart, next year his daughter wants to go to college too. Nipsy is 17 and in her senior year at school. She too wants to study engineering. Niksan’s college is in
Nagercoil, about 40km from New Ambadi. He takes the college bus at 7.15 am in the morning, his classes start at 9 am and run until 4.30 pm. He’s home by 6.30 pm and has to do two to three hours
of homework at night. Niksan is very relieved that his grant for the second year has been approved. He attended a Tamil medium school and struggled in his first year at college because all
classes are taught in English. But his language skills have improved and he enjoys learning. Once he’s got his degree Niksan wants to work abroad where he thinks he will be able to earn more
money. He realises that despite the Fair Trade grant, sending him and from next year his sister to college is putting a heavy burden on the family. His father says he will have to apply for an
interest free loan from the joint body and he will take a loan against his retirement fund if needed – whatever it takes, his kids will get an education. The grants and interest free loans
financed through the Fair Trade premium make the life of Nesyan just that little bit easier.
© Marianne Landzettel