News N. 0/154   21/06/2019

'French NGO builds school for disadvantaged kids'

CHENNAI: Monaco-based philanthropist and president of international humanitarian organisation Cuomo Foundation, Elena Cuomo, will inaugurate their latest initiative, Amala Annai Higher Secondary School in Mambakkam, on Thursday. The school, built in partnership with the Diocese of Chengalpet, is the foundation’s seventh educational project in Tamil Nadu, and is among the few to receive the ‘Platinum – National Excellence’ rating from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), for energy-efficient design.

According to Charles Kulandai, the foundation’s project manager in India, the new school will replace a previous structure by the same name, which reportedly lacked basic infrastructure. “Besides this, girl students from about 22 villages in the vicinity were made to drop out after Class X, as the nearest school for Class XI and XII was in Chengalpet, about 15km away,” he said. The new school will have classes from VI to XII, and can accommodate more than 800 students.

The campus, about a mile’s distance from the old one, has been built using eco-friendly material around two green atriums. It has 21 well-ventilated classrooms, separate physics, chemistry and biology laboratories, a library, audio-visual centres, an auditorium, separate toilet blocks and expansive outdoor sports facilities. Designed by architect Priya Lourduraj, the school has adopted water-efficient landscaping with reuse of stockpiled soil, and native and drought-tolerant tree species. It also uses eco-friendly refrigerants and fire extinctions.

“We focus quite a bit on our school programmes, because when children are young, they can imbibe ways to live in harmony with nature and use energy frugally, early on,” says CN Raghavendran, chairman of IGBC’s Chennai chapter. 

Elena and her late husband Alfredo who started the foundation together in 2001, had undertaken several projects in Tamil Nadu, since they started working here two decades ago. 

“Education is a cause that has always been at the top of our agenda in India. It is a passport to a better future and we are convinced that equipping children from disadvantaged communities with quality education is what will change their circumstances,” says Elena.