Its reputed for educating the creme de la creme of Chennai. From the middle class to the uber rich to celebrity kids who get a ride to class in their Mercs and BMWs, Lady Andal Venkatasubba Rao Matriculation Hr Secondary School aka simply ‘LA’ for many kids today is the ultimate in ‘cool’ for a school. So much so that most people would possibly be flummoxed by its humble beginnings. Celebrating 25 years of Lady Andal, C Prema Prema, the school’s correspondent takes a trip down memory lane. “We started with two rooms,” she recalls with a laugh. Then adds more seriously, “Nobody wanted to enroll their children with us.” In fact, she adds, “I remember parents would say, I’ll bring my maid’s son or my driver’s daughter here to study, but not mine!” The year was 1987 and Prema had in mind a very different picture from the present day institution — a gurukulum type school to pay tribute to her grandfather’s sister, Lady Andal.
“I was brought up by her,” says Prema, she elaborates, “as a little girl she fed me, bathed me and I refused to sleep next to anyone but her”. Lady Andal and her husband Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao were known for their extensive charity work and for founding the Madras Seva Sadan at Chetpet, a school for girls from underprivileged backgrounds.
Chatting with the correspondent on the Sevan Sadan grounds (neighbouring the Lady Andal campus), it is clear that there is no disparity when the students of both schools come together. There is a basketball tournament in session and Prema is seated right by the court, watching the game. She states, “When Lady Andal is playing, the Seva Sadan girls cheer and vice versa.” Not to mention that some of the students from Class 8 even frequent the Seva Sadan to teach spoken English.
But back to school’s beginnings. With limited staff and infrastructure, the institution was built on much patience and care. Prema explains, “We tried to add one class to the school’s framework each year,” so Class 1, 2 and so forth. When the time came for Class 5, a new student was admitted. “Her name was Almas Ahmed and she was brilliant, “ Prema recalls, but apparently this student was ready for Class 6. “We didn’t want to let her go,” she goes on, “so we decided to start a one extra class that year just for her.” This had never happened before.
So what is the school’s greatest accomplishment through its 25 years? Boasting a staff of over a hundred, multiple MAC systems in the computer lab and electronic boards to aid learning in every classroom — one can take for granted that the list is a long one. Perhaps one aspect of the academic system that stands out is the school’s ‘inclusive education’ policy. “I think that is our greatest accomplished – teaching special children in normal classrooms,” responds Prema. At the moment, there are over 200 students studying at Lady Andal with conditions like cerebral palsy, physical handicaps, speech impairment and other such problems. Perhaps the Lady Andal motto says it all — ‘Service with a smile’ always.