With the Kerala High Court ordering the closure of the Malaparamba UP school in Kozhikode by May 27, 350-odd residents from the neighbouring areas -including the school staff- have been on strike in front of the school for almost two months.
The school has been in the headlines since 2010 with locals mounting a stiff resistance to any attempts to close down the 130-year-old educational institution. The upper primary school which comprises classes from Std 1 to 7 has eight teachers and two support staff on rolls.
The previous UDF state government ordered the shutdown following a request from the management which even managed to secure a High Court order in support of its decision. Locals however have blocked repeated attempts to close down the school by the team headed by the district Assistant Education Officer (AEO).
“There are 45 students studying here with an additional 25 new students enrolling for the academic year due to begin on June 1. We need a school here, so we will not allow anyone to close it down. Most of us studied here…this is our pride,” PH Thaha, coordinator of the Residents Association in Malaparambu and leader of the ongoing protest told The News Minute.
Protesters blocking the attempts to close down the school
According to Thaha, a few years ago, the school’s present manager P.K. Padmarajan who sought the closure citing non-viability, had bought the land on which the school stands. “He was an agent of the land mafia…his intention is to sell the property to the highest bidder. That is why he bought it,” he alleges.
In 2010, Padmarajan reportedly demolished a part of the school building but was forced to stop following widespread protests in the area. “We collected almost Rs 20 lakhs to renovate the school. We have spent Rs 10 lakhs till date for its reconstruction. We will not allow anyone to demolish our school,” Thaha reiterates.
He adds: “Whether the management wants to sell the land or use it for some other purpose, we are not aware, but whatever be their intention, we will not allow them to shut down the school.”
The protesters say that from among the 45 students, eight students are differently-abled and all of them are good in studies.
“Every month, the teachers voluntarily spend an amount from their earnings for the school. Even the natives chip in,” Thaha shares. With just a day left for the court order to be implemented, the protestors are all geared up to face the challenge that looms ahead of them.
Meanwhile Kerala’s newly sworn in chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has taken a favourable stance towards the protesters and has promised to decide in their favour.