This Karnataka village is reviving a ‘haunted’ school and how!
Since then, the residents of Bandemeedathaanda, located in Gouribidanur taluk, kept a safe distance from the government school, considering the creepy picture it presented.
BANDEMEEDA THAANDA, GOURIBIDANUR (CHIKKABALLAPURA): The children of Bandemeedathaanda village, who were afraid to set step into a ‘haunted’ school in their village for many years, will now play and learn within its walls. The school, once a bustling centre of education, closed down seven years ago as the number of students reached single digits.
Since then, the residents of Bandemeedathaanda, located in Gouribidanur taluk, kept a safe distance from the government school, considering the creepy picture it presented. The structure was covered with shrubs and classrooms, where children once sat, were covered in cobwebs and layers of dust.
But thanks to the sheer grit and determination of a handful of alumni and some villagers, the school has been reopened and is seeing a gradual increase in the number of children signing up to study. More than 80 families from the Lambani thaanda (community) from this village, stay in small houses nearby. Just a year ago, none of them would have dared to go near the school.
‘Earlier, we had to walk far. Now we are happy’
Now, the chirpy kids have returned and the building is abuzz with activity. Bandemeedathanda village (derived from the word Bande melina thaanda, meaning thaanda stays on rocks), has a total population of around 500 people. It is located 100 kilometres from Bengaluru and hardly 4 kilometers from the Ananthpur district of Andhra Pradesh. Most of the villagers work as agricultural labourers.
The school opened in 1996 and in its heyday, sported a proper building, playground, toilets and other amenities. Students could study till class four and around 50 to 60 students would study here every year.
When the school shut down, the handful who wanted to continue studying, were forced to walk to the neighbouring village of Ellodu (four km away) to attend school there. They had to walk as there are no bus facilities, nor are the roads in proper condition for vehicles to ply.
However, last year, a 21-year-old alumni, Manju Nayak, had the first thought of reviving the school. Working with the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) as a lineman in Gauribidanur, Nayak and his younger cousin, who was about to pursue an engineering course, were forced to go all the way to Nadumin thaanda government school in neighbouring Nadumin village to get their educational documents as the files were shifted there.
“It’s then that I realised that we need our school back. Many of my classmates, juniors and seniors are well-read and have completed their graduation, post-graduation and even technical courses like BE. Our generation was the first one to go to school,’’ said Nayak who joined BESCOM after completing his BCom.
Led by Manju Nayak, like-minded alumni members and a few villagers set on a mission to get the school reopened. “We were told to meet the Block Education Officer who in turn told us to make a list of children who can be enrolled in this school. We were also told to get a letter from their parents. We went back to our village, convinced the parents to send their children to the school. All this was done in 15 days and on June 17, 2019, eleven children enrolled,” Nayak said. When they decided to reopen this school, the education department deputed Mahaboob Subhan from the government school in Sukaalithaanda village -- a few kilometres from Bandemeedathaanda -- to the school as a teacher.
“Except the building, there was a lot of work that was needed to be done. The ‘haunted’ building had to be cleared of the shrubs and cobwebs. Villagers came forward to remove it. The cobwebs and dust inside the classroom were also cleaned up by them,’’ he said. Seven-year-old Sneha Bai, along with Kavya and Ramya, who otherwise would have had to walk to neighbouring Ellodu village to attend school, are extremely happy. “We had to walk far. Now we are happy. I want to become a teacher and teach children,’’ Sneha said.