The villagers of Konarpalayam near Annur in Coimbatore district have joined hands to save a government primary school that has been functioning in the village since the 1960s. The school faces the imminent threat of being shut down or merged with another school, due to the low enrolment of students.

Konarpalayam has 63 families, of which a majority thrive as agricultural and daily wage labourers. There are a handful of well-to-do families, who send their kids to private schools. However children from low-income families attend this government primary school. If the school were to shut down, the education of these kids would be at risk.

Speaking to TNM, Rakesh Chandrakumar, headmaster of the school said, “This is new. I have done a lot of announcements and campaigning to increase strength of the school, but beyond a point, nothing worked.”

The school has Classes 1 to 5 and has one teacher in addition to the headmaster who handles these classes.

“I even arranged for music and yoga classes in the school, to attract students. My son teaches music here and I don’t pay him. The yoga master comes here every week and I pay him a pittance out of my pocket,” he added.

It all began when a parent approached the headmaster after reading news about Tamil Nadu government mulling to shut down or merge schools with a low student enrolment.

“He asked me if this school will also be shut and I couldn’t lie. I answered yes and then he came up with this idea of giving a gram of gold to the new admissions and arranged for notices to be printed from his own press. He has a printing press in Tirupur and his kids study in our school,” the headmaster said.

Apart from cash and gold, the committee has also decided to give two sets of uniforms free of cost to newly admitted students.

The headmaster also added, “Last year we had four students and now we have seven students. Now after this announcement, we have got at least eight new admissions to the school. Once the government takes a school allocation off a locality it is almost impossible to bring it back to the area. That is why we are fighting so hard.”

There are around three other schools within a four kilometre radius of the school.

Selvaraj, who heads the committee and also sponsors the cash award for the students, spoke to TNM and said, “I studied in that school and hence wanted to save it from being closed. My family and I still live in that village and I know the value of having a primary school in the locality. Hence I wanted to chip in with whatever I can. Some more villagers have expressed interest in sharing the amount to be contributed. This is something small that I can do to maintain a school.”

The headmaster echoes Selvaraj’s words. “It is not about what the well-to-do people here do, it is about the people who cannot afford to do it owing to their financial situations. So we all collectively took a stand to do it.”  

Source : The News Minute

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