BENGALURU: The children of Padukote, a dot of a village 12km from HD Kote town in Mysuru district, can hope to return to a better school this year. The Government Primary School, a three-classroom structure which was in a derelict condition for at least 45 years, is under renovation. Most importantly, the school will have proper toilets.
Upkriti, a Bengaluru-based NGO that works on tribal welfare projects, took up the task with a band of volunteers. The years of neglect were apparent: the school walls were never painted, and during the monsoon, water seeped through the walls. “There are two toilets, little more than holes in the ground, which were not upgraded ever since the school was built. We will rebuild the toilets and construct an additional one,” said Chandan Gowda, founder of Upkriti.
The team that renovated the school consisted of around 17 volunteers, including automation engineers, advocates, engineering students and operations analysts. The NGO hired professional painters to coat the walls in waterproof paint, after which volunteers created colourful murals.
“We’ve introduced a lot of environmental and pollution-related artwork, as well as science and other subjects to help educate the kids. We’re hoping the colourful work encourages parents to enrol their children in the school, and shows that good education is being imparted,” Chandan told TNIE. “Work on a digital lab and dining hall will commence in March. The lab will be installed with computers.” The NGO also donated a few textbooks and other study material.
The total cost of painting amounted to Rs 1.2 lakh, with waterproofing costing Rs 80,000. The education department allocated around Rs 12,000 for toilets and even offered to build them, while the NGO has taken up fitting of commodes, washbasins and tiling. “The cost is expected to touch Rs 70,000. A retired couple in Mysuru has agreed to sponsor the full cost. We will provide all basic facilities and furnish the toilets so they are up-to-date and private,” he said.
Chandan said the NGO hopes to renovate at least 10 other rural schools this year. The school in Padukote functions as part of a cluster, under which seven other schools operate. “Once we started work, the other schools approached us, saying their infrastructure was even worse,” he said. “Toilets in the other schools were very bad, everyone was using the same toilet. In some schools, the walls are low with no roofs, exposing the user. It’s especially difficult for older girls.” Work on the Padukote school is scheduled to be completed by the end of February. Due to heavy forestry and rain, buildings faced major damage.
Popularly known as ‘Vanasiri Naadu’, HD Kote is a backward taluk with a good population of tribals and backward communities, and lacks good infrastructure. “This village is home to around 800 people and they cannot afford renovation of the school. It’s important to spread awareness, especially in bigger cities. They must know that rural schools are in poor condition and they can help,” he said.
The Padukote school has a student strength of 80. Students from Class 1 to 3 are grouped in one class, Class 4- 5 are grouped in another, and Class 6 - 7 are in the last. “There are only three full-time teachers, one for each class, and two volunteer teachers. Children are taught the same syllabus. There are no bus facilities, so teachers have to travel at their own expense. It’s very isolated from the outside world,” said Chandan. “We’re hoping that the initiative brings awareness about the state of schools in rural areas and more people help out.”