BENGALURU: When Abhilash Matlapudi, a software engineer, saw hundreds of parents protest against the illogical fee hike in Whitefield Global School in April last year, he thought why not start a school. This has also come from his concern for his own children when he learnt that one has to shell out at least `3 lakh a year per child in a preschool.
Interestingly, Abhilash got tremendous positive response when he shared this idea on a social media platform. This was when he decided to take his idea forward. Chats with parents turned into strategy and brainstorming sessions. “We thought, why can’t we make it? Why can’t we do something to make sure we have a good school which is affordable?” says Abhilash.
He adds, “The idea was to have a transparent school where the accounts will be made accessible to the parents. The school will be run by a managing committee selected by parents.”
It was a unique showing of parent power. Abhilash and a few concerned citizens took the initiative to start a school called ‘Citizen School’, run and managed by the parents on the premise of ‘no profit no loss’.
“ Initially, we wanted to start a full-fledged school and we were hoping to get space for our school through CSR (corporate social responsibility) or donations. Then we thought of starting a preschool as it will give us hands-on experience before we go on to ‘high school’.
And this is something we can begin as soon as possible. Besides, the formalities are fewer in opening a preschool. We have registered ourselves as a trust and now we are looking for space on rental basis.”
Abhilash has two children, one is six years old going to regular school, and another is two years old who will be joining the Citizen School. Abhilash says, “Most of the trustees and volunteers who have children eligible to join a preschool are sending their children to our school. On the other hand, we have many trustees and volunteers who are contributing selflessly for the project as their children are already in senior schools.”
The team has visited various conventional and alternative schools to understand the latest practices in schooling. They also have experienced consultants ready with them to work either for free or for a nominal salary. They are in fact conducting a symposium on April 29 which will bring some eminent experts and parents together. The group hopes to take advantage of the learnings from both the sides.
Abhilash adds, “We need `5-`10 lakh to kick off our school operations and we will start collecting donations once our bank account becomes operational. The idea is to involve the local community which will benefit from this initiative. People should get connected to the cause and they will stay engaged once their money is spent for a cause.”
He adds, “These days we outsource everything and expect everything to be perfect but we don’t understand that without constant engagement, it’s impossible to achieve highest standards. We plan to come up with flexible payment options for parents as per the decision taken by the parents themselves. We will pay higher salaries than many other schools as we understand the importance of teachers. We are going to be more affordable as we will be using a lot of free resources.”
Sonia Saneja, treasurer of the trust, says, “We have 50 active parents willing to help the ‘Citizen School’. The hurdle is just to get land which we are hoping to solve soon. The trust has 14 members. Currently we have raised `10,000 each and reaching out for public funds.”
Voicing a similar opinion, Ashok Kinha, president of the trust, says, “The response from the people has been amazing. There are parents waiting for us to start the school. But the point is until and unless we showcase our abilities with a junior school, there will be fewer takers for a senior school. So, we are looking to start with the preschool at the earliest.”