At this remote village of Chigateri in Harappanahalli of Davanagere district, the class schedule for the government higher primary school students depends highly on the prevailing weather conditions. In the absence of formal classrooms, about 273 students of this school have been braving heat, rain and cold for almost two years now.
While about 163 students have been housed in three classrooms under the Nali Kali scheme, lessons for Class 5 are held at a local kalyana mantapa (choultry). But the condition of the 57 students of Class 4 requires immediate attention, says Santhosh*, a parent, since they don’t even have a roof over their heads and are studying under a tree.
“The students simply can’t pay attention to the classes; they are exposed to random noise, distraction from vehicular movements and animals grazing in their outdoor classes,” Santhosh laments.
Lakshmi*, a student, recollects how recently a non-poisonous snake had cosied up in her bag that was left unattended, putting the entire class on their toes a few minutes later.
“While generally other students may fall sick after being exposed to the weather conditions throughout the day, given the fact that these children come from a farming background, their natural immunity is relatively stronger,” teachers say.
Till recently an equal number of students from Class 5 were also attending the ‘outdoor’ class, until a local kalyana mantapa invited them to hold classes there during non-event days.
“We don’t pay rent, but whenever there is a wedding or ceremony in the choultry, we either have to drop the classes or relocate to an outdoor setup,” Sujatha*, a staff at the school says.
Teachers say that they are unable to accommodate an additional class in the same kalyana mantapa since there is echo and the classes would cause disturbance to each other.
A Parent Teacher Association member says that the school, which was started in 2006, has appraised the Block Education Officer (BEO) of the situation several times and has requested that a proper room for the enthusiastic children along with toilet facilities be set up.
“There are about 135 girl students studying here, if the school environment is not conductive, eventually parents will lose interest in sending their children to school,” Sujatha worries.
“In December last year, officials from the Department of Public Instruction had themselves visited and sanctioned some amount for the construction of an additional room. However, due to the Assembly election code of conduct, the money was held back by the Zilla Panchayat office and has not been released till date,” school officials say.
After some of the faculty were sent on deputation, the school is trying to function with just 6 teachers. With no help in sight from government, the school authorities, in a desperate bid to protect students during the monsoons, tried to build a temporary shed with metal sheets. The teachers and parents led a door-to-door campaign named ‘Manegondu Thagadu’ – literally translated to a ‘metal sheet from each house for the school’, wherein they asked the village residents to donate a metal sheet for the construction of the shed.
“While many villagers responded positively despite their own poverty, the donations are yet to materialise,” another teacher said.
The parents committee of the school also recently approached the local MLA Karunakar Reddy.
“Although the MLA empathised with our situation, given the state government’s commitment to the loan wavier for farmers, he said that it may not be possible to mobilise funds for the school. But he has assured us that he would help in his personal capacity,” Santosh said.
Meanwhile, irrespective of the dismal infrastructure of the school, the spirits of the students are not dampened. In the recently declared final examination results, school authorities say nearly 120 of its wards have secured first class.
Story by www.storyinfinity.com (Subs and Scribes Media Ventures LLP).