MYSURU: It is a common sight to see children in rural pockets playing ‘desi’ games or running barefoot on village roads, chasing tyres with twigs. Certainly not whizzing around on skateboards. But Udbur in Mysuru is a village apart: here girls and boys are at ease rollerskating or skateboarding. This rather urban skill reached Udbur village, thanks to a group of young skaters from Mysuru who are on a mission to empower rural government schoolkids with the skill of skating.
It started in 2018 when Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement (GRAAM), a policy research and advocacy think-tank in Mysuru, launched the initiative to train the students of Udbur, as part of its comprehensive school development programme, Sugamya Shiksha. It highlights the importance of sports in a student’s life. They invited interested youngsters to join hands to support the programme.
Pratap Chand, an instructor well known in the skating rinks of Mysuru, joined hands with GRAAM to successfully implement the project, and over the past several years, Pratap and his teammates have trained over 50 students of the government school in roller freestyle, popularly called ‘urban skating’. This initiative has helped young kids get hands-on experience in rollerskating, and master the skill to participate in skating events and competitions at the district and state level.
These children were not even aware of such a sporting activity before Pratap Chand arrived with his magic wheels. Like Nagaraju, a student who was trained by Pratap and his team, who said he was not aware about skating earlier. “Now I can easily skate around concrete roads in my village and I feel happy about participating in competitions. My parents are also happy,” he said. Nagaraju has been learning to skate for three years.
Pratap said there are many disciplines in skating, like speed-skating, ice-skating, downhill-skating etc. “We decided to teach them roller freestyle as we had the necessary place adjacent to the school. “It was a great experience teaching students who had no idea about skating. Around 10 of our students got a chance to perform at the district and state level skating events,” he said.
However, the Covid-19 outbreak came as a major hurdle as training had to stop. Though they have joined hands with GRAAM, Pratap and his teammates Jibin Thomas, Sawan Rawath and Harsha are relaunching the initiative on October 1, and planning to reach out to more government schools in rural pockets.
School headmaster Ramu Shetty is happy that their school is the first in the state to train students in skating, and said it has increased enrolment. “We must thank Pratap and his team who provided us with basic amenities, including steel plates for over 700 students, by sourcing money from friends and like-minded people in the form of donation,” he said.
Basavaraju R Shreshta, executive director of GRAAM, is glad that the initiative has contributed to the growth of children in terms of life skills. “It led parents and school authorities to encourage children to take up sports, and this stands as an example of realising the importance of sports, and gives children enough exposure to grown in the field. I am happy that Pratap and his team are planning to reach out to more students,” he said.
While GRAAM helped provide students with all necessary equipment and safety guards in the initial days to help them learn the basics, Pratap, with help from parents of private students, raised funds to help the students get advanced skates to participate in the events.
Pratap and his team are planning to continue this mission at various other government schools in the district and are looking forward to generous contributions from people to fund the purchase of skates and guards to train rural students for free.
It started in 2018 when Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement (GRAAM), a policy research and advocacy think-tank in Mysuru, launched the initiative to train the students of Udbur, as part of its comprehensive school development programme,