DAVANGERE: IT is 5.30 in the evening, a group of smiling girls rush and hug Prema Nagaraj, one of the pillars of the school. The girls beam with pride pointing at saplings they have grown on the school premises. They tell her: “Ma’am click a photo of us with that plant, please. The plants have produced many flowers today.” Prema obliges them and clicks a photo on her phone, much to the girls’ delight. As Prema moves forward, she sees a girl watering a sapling, three girls busy reading a newspaper and some playing in the playground.
This is what one can see at Rasmi Residential School for Girls in Davanagere if they happen to visit the school after school hours. The school, home to 250 girls from the poorest families, provides education, shelter and food for underprivileged girls free of cost. Founded in 2000 by P Surendra, the owner of Rasmi Electronics Limited, London, in memory of his daughter Rasmi, who died in a road accident in London when she was 21 years old in 1993, the school is a boon to the girls.
Surendra says Rasmi’s untimely death left a void in his life and that is when he decided to set up a school that would “save and educate” underprivileged girls. With help from his brother Dr Nagaraj (70) and Nagaraj’s wife Prema (61), Surendra started the school, located 1 km off Davanagere-Harihar Road. Spread over six acres, the school comprises a hostel, school buildings and a farm where the students grow vegetables, coconuts and fruits organically.
The school gets support from a trust — Dr Parvatappa Memorial Trust — set up by Surendra and named after his father. While it receives monetary support from donors, farmers do their bit by donating vegetables and rice and a few pharmacies provide free medicines and doctors help in organising free medical camps for the girls.
Initially, the school was started with class 1 and by 2010, the school had classes from 1 to 10. Prema says each year they receive around 200 applications and they admit 30-35 girls. The school authorities interview both the child and parents separately to know their financial background. “If an orphan comes seeking help anytime during the academic year, we admit her,” Prema adds. She says they don’t discriminate based on religion or caste. The school also admits children of Devadasis.
Apart from free education, the school also provides girls with free clothes and food. The school spends Rs 10,000 per child towards education apart from food and general maintenance of the child. Prema says the school has 12 teachers, including six lady teachers who reside in the school campus. Elder girls take care of the younger ones in the hostel and are asked to help in cooking.
On Saturdays and Sundays, the girls are involved in farming activities. This, the authorities say, is to make them independent and lead a disciplined life. Yoga classes, prayer sessions, sports, computer classes and other extracurricular activities are also included in the schedule. Students of the school bag several prizes each year in Prathiba Karanji competitions and the school gets 100 per cent results in SSLC exam year after year.
Class 9 student Ashwini from Laxmipura says she aspires to become a singer and the school is encouraging her in nourishing her talent and helping her to reach her goal. Class 10 student Bhavani T says she wants to pursue a degree in science. “Prema madam treats all of us like her own children,” she says. An aspiring lawyer, Yashaswini, a Class 9 student, wants to make a mark in acting and singing and says the school encourages her.
Prema Nagaraj says they have plans to start English classes in the upcoming academic year and expand the library if they get sufficient funds
ABOUT THE FOUNDER
School founder P Surendra, who hails from Davanagere, holds a doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of London. He has another daughter Anjali who is taking care of the affairs of Rasmi Electronics Ltd. His family resides at Durham in the UK.