Every day, Nooruddin GM (47) and Radhakrishna Nayak (45), teachers at a Kannada medium school in Bantwal, turn drivers and make six daily trips to ferry about 80 children from home to school and back.
The duo has been doing this service, each morning and evening, for over nine years now to contain the dipping number of students at their school. At its peak, the 44-year-old Darul Islam Aided Higher Primary School at Panemangalore in Bantwal had over 400 students, but now the number has plunged to 185.
The teachers say the students are more than happy to accept what is a joyride for them to school and back.
“All the students are from poor economic backgrounds. So the concept of travelling in the car itself is a dream come true for most of them, and so they never give it a miss,” Physical Education teacher Radhakrishna says.
For driving the 16 km each trip, the teachers do not receive any extra remuneration. In fact, assistant teacher Nooruddin has to travel approximately 27 km every day to get to the school from his home in Mangalore. But sharp at 9 in the morning, the duo ensures that all their students are in the campus.
Nooruddin says he is not embarrassed to become a driver and that he would go to any extent to bring more students to school.
It was in 2009-2010 that the Darul Islam Aided Higher Primary School noticed a substantial fall in their student numbers. It not only affected the number of staff of this government-aided school but also affected the faculty’s morale. Several factors such as preference for English medium over Kannada and rise in neighbourhood schools played a role in the dip in student numbers.
“However, distance and non-availability of school transport was mainly pointed out by parents for the withdrawal of their wards,” headmaster of Darul Islam Aided Higher Primary School Pakruddin said.
“The school authorities were concerned that at this rate our school might just shut down,” Pakruddin said.
It was then that, in consultation with the staff, the school authorities decided to introduce free pick up and drop for their students. In an act of selflessness, the faculty of the school chipped in a part of the amount and raised Rs 1.2 lakh for procuring two second-hand cars – an Ambassador and a Maruti Omni for the school trips. The school also dedicated Rs 2 lakh annually for fuel and maintenance of the vehicles.
“Each year we make it a point to exchange the vehicles for better ones, so that the safety of the children is not compromised,” the headmaster added.
The school cars make trips as far as 8 km to the remote areas at Golthamajal-Kalladka.
“Preference is given to primary level children and girl students,” Pakruddin says.
Encouraged by the school’s proactiveness, now even the parents of the respective children along with a few residents are contributing towards the transport expenses.
The school has students from Class 1 to 7. At present there are six government approved staff and the school has hired the service of two more faculty on honorarium basis.
The school authorities say that they have not approached the government for vehicles, additional financial assistance or drivers, but for over 9 years now they have successfully run an incident-free transportation service for their students.
“We won’t boast that the number of students has increased greatly. Frankly speaking even after the introduction of the transport service, the number is fluctuating. But we want to keep this school alive for the next generation and we will try to be more creative in our efforts,” Pakruddin says.
Speaking to TNM, Block Education Officer (BEO) of Bantwal, N Shivprakash, said that at the moment the government provided transport only for schools catering to differently-abled children. However, in future, the government may consider extending the service to regular schools as well.
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