THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Six generations have passed out of school since the state’s first Malayalam textbook — Kerala Padavali — was introduced in 1956. When the teachers of the Government VHSS for Boys, Nedumangad, a rural area of Thiruvananthapuram district, presented before students the first text with an unusual old script and pictures depicting each word, many were transported to another world.
The school authorities came up with the novel idea so as to introduce students to the history of Malayalam textbooks and the changes they went through with script modification.
It was the brainchild of teacher Udayakumar, who wanted students to interact more with history and social surroundings.
In the week-long programme organised under the banner of ‘Padavali Week’, Malayalam textbooks from 1958 to the present day are brought before the students. On October 25, the opening day, two Malayalam textbooks — from 1958 and 1976 — were presented for comparison. As the hard copy of the first Malayalam textbook was unavailable, the school authorities presented the digital version of the book through a projector.
“It was the first time the teachers too were seeing the first textbook produced after Kerala formation,” Udayakumar told TNIE.
“Although there was a textbook at the time of the state formation in 1956, it was introduced in the Thiru-Kochi state. We are presenting Malayalam textbooks from standard 1 to 10.”
The students were astonished when their headmistress started singing ‘Kunchiyammakkanchu Makkalane’, ‘Raki Parakkunna Chemparunthe’ and ‘Marykkundoru Kunjadu’ -- the age-old textbook poems which were once favourites among the public for generations until the General Education Department decided to change it. The students then took over and read the Malayalam textbooks from different eras.
For the students, it felt like a fantasy come true. “It was like we were studying in an era far removed from the present day. Some words were entirely different from what we learnt. And some words were tough to even pronounce,” said V Akhil, a Class 9 student.
The teachers also allowed the students to read poems, stories and essays so they could understand the difference in period.
“These textbooks were studied by my parents,” said Class 10 student P S Mahith. “I felt the texts and poems are easy to understand. The stories too are better than those in the current textbooks. Even the plays are different.”
The authorities also brought in teachers and students from schools in the adjacent areas to read.
“The Vidyarangam Kalavedi and the students’ group, Friday Discussion Group, are behind this novel programme,” said Headmistress K S Reshmi.
“The programme is organised during the noon interval so that no class is lost. Around 1.20pm, we assemble the students in a room and start the session. On November 1, the closing day, we will present the texts in audio clips, which have been recorded by retired school teachers.”