Not long ago, Haradanahalli village in Mysuru was plagued by open defecation and empty classrooms. Today, the story is starkly and pleasantly different.

How a dedicated officials efforts and a digital library transformed a Mysuru village All images by Omjasvin MD
news Human Interest Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - 14:19

‘What do you want to become when you grow up?’ If you asked this question at Haradanahalli High School two years ago, you would not have gotten any response, for the classrooms were mostly empty. But now, in full attendance, the students confidently answer, “civil servant”, “doctor”, “engineer” and “scientist”.

The once littered and stinking streets of Haradanahalli are now clean and are even used for preparing dry fodder for the cattle and drying out grains. From practising rampant open defecation, the villagers have now ensured that almost every home has a toilet.

All of this transformation has happened in about two years, thanks to the efforts of a determined Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) as well as exposure through a state-of-the-art digital library he set up in the village’s Gram Panchayat office.

First task: Fixing the hygiene

Not too long ago, you could see faeces on newly built roads from open defecation. The village’s Gram Panchayat, home to 1,750 families, was at the 45th place for toilet construction among 123 villages in Mysuru district.

After taking charge as the PDO in 2017, Mahadevaswamy was demoralised to see Haradanahalli’s condition. He made an impassioned plea by collecting the faeces he saw on the road, and going door to door. Moved, the villagers took to the streets with brooms and water, and cleaned up the roads.

While men were reluctant to change and not keen on building toilets, women were more enthusiastic about the move, Mahadevaswamy said. “With almost every house having a toilet now, women do not face as many problems from natural and social vermins,” Mahadevaswamy shared.

His commendable work in the village was recognised and he was awarded Rs 10 lakh as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan 2018 Champion for building 800 toilets in a month in six villages in Nanjangud taluk. He used half of this amount to set up the digital library. And with that, Mahadevaswamy set out to address the issue of education.

Digital library, a window to the world

The digital library, set up in a 400 square feet room, serves many functions, Mahadevaswamy explained. Equipped with five computers, one projector, all-day internet access and power backup, not only does it allow students of different ages to access over 1,000 e-books on various subjects. They also have staff who teach primary school students how to use computers, and provide guidance for those who want to pursue higher studies.

“Experienced professionals from Mysuru and Bengaluru guide the students about competitive exams via video calls. We also get study material online,” Mahadevaswamy said.

The library also allows students to supplement what they are learning at school. “Students in Haradanahalli start learning the English alphabet only in class eight. Digital activity-based learning like reading books, watching English language cartoons and playing some online games has enhanced their progress in reading, speaking and writing in English,” he explained.

Apart from improving language skills, the library allows students to see chapters in maths, science and social science presented as videos, allowing them to visualise as they learn, shared Ranjitha V, a science teacher at the Haradanahalli High School.

The library has had a positive impact on the 250 students in the high school. Class 10 students say it helps them to prepare well for the upcoming board exams. “When I see how a human brain functions, it is easy for me to remember it,” said Janvi P, a student and also a state level athlete.

Mahadevaswamy noted that initially only 30 to 60 students from Haradanahalli would come to the library. Now however, around 600 students from across the panchayat – from villages including Kaaturu, Ibbala, Allianapura, Hucchagani, and Basapura – come regularly.

Digital Assistance

The library also provides digital assistance to the villagers. “We help villagers get birth certificates, death certificates, caste certificates and Aadhaar linking done very quickly,” Mahadevaswamy said. Further, a D-space app allows villagers to access this data on their phones once they register.

Due to its tremendous success, the PDO wants to expand the library. Two more rooms are being constructed to install a dozen more computers to accommodate more students. A plan is being formulated to install another projector screen in the common hall of the Panchayat office to screen awareness videos on hygiene, sanitation, and education. “This helps bringing the villagers together to discuss these issues, encourage a sense a community,” Mahadevaswamy said.

Mahadevaswamy is open to ideas on further development, and can be reached at 7338150059.

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