SIRSI: When the state government decided to establish a residential school for the benefit of rural children in this village, the only challenge was to find a building to house children. As the government could not find any suitable building for 40 children, Isloor village near Sirsi was about to lose its sanctioned residential school.
Thanks to Shashidhar Bhat, a resident of the village and a well-known name in the Kannada film industry, that didn’t happen. The village got its residential school as Bhat came forward to convert his well-running homestay, Ajji Mane, into a school.
Not only did Bhat give away the five-room house for the school and hostel, he has also agreed to build five new classrooms in the coming years. Today the homestay is home to 36 girls and boys of Dr Ambedkar Residential School.
While the government has sanctioned funds for the school to have its own building in future, till then the children will stay and study in the homestay. Though the local administration will soon fix the monthly rent for the school building, the income is much less compared to what the homestay could have earned.
It’s been four months since the school has been functioning at Ajji Mane. The children here have access to the entire property and they interact with Shashidhar Bhat. Behind the property there is a small hillock which is popularly known as sunset point hill. Children accompanied by their teachers and Bhat visit during holidays as a small trekking.
“I was happy when the school was sanctioned to my village. But I got worried when I heard that the school may be shifted as there are no suitable buildings. As there are equal numbers of girl students, safety and hygiene aspects needed to be looked into. I decided to turn the homestay into a school so that the children can start studying. I consulted my son and he happily agreed too,” he recalls.
Many Ajji Mane regulars still call up for bookings but Bhat has had to decline their requests. “When I opened Ajji Mane property for tourists the condition was only one family or group of guests will be accommodated. This I continued till recently before I converted the property into the school,” Bhat says.
Bhat was associated with the production of Kannada movie Nammura Mandara Hoove and Ajji Mane homestay was the base camp for the film unit. The movie brought instant popularity to destinations like Yana rocks and Sathodi waterfalls.
“Children feel at home here,” says one of the teaching faculty. She added that many children come from areas where there are no roads and transport facilities. As the children are used to staying in forested areas, they feel at home in the Ajji Mane property. The sanctioned strength of students is 40 for the first year. We have 36 boys and girls studying here,” she adds.