For the last two years, head master Suresh Shetty of the Government Primary School at Konjady has been depositing Rs 1000 against the name of each of his students, all to raise the number of children attending his school.
In the backdrop of the Karnataka government’s move to merge over 3,500 schools with single teachers and low-pupil ratio, the head Master’s effort has managed to achieve a breakthrough, increasing the strength nearly thrice in the last couple of years.
Taking over as head Master in August 2016, 55-year old Suresh Shetty has deposited a sum of Rs. 26,000 against the names of 26 students (both existing and new admission). A veteran educator for the past 23-years, Suresh Shetty says come 2018, six-more students will be awarded a similar amount taking the total figure of beneficiaries to 32.
The amount is a one time-deposit which can be used by the students and their parents.
"Every year when the interest is accrued, we were able to convince the parents to re-invest the principal amount along with interest back in the FD, so that they can save-up for their children's future," he says.
At the little known school however, it was not the students but the parents who were sceptical of educating the children. "Upon joining I was told that the school has not seen an 'Annual Day' for the last 20-years. Parents were genuinely concerned about poor-facilities, negligible extra-curricular activities compared to those offered by nearby private schools. In fact, only six-people turned up when we first called for parents teachers meet," he says.
It took a consistent-month long effort from Shetty to convince the parents to send their wards to schools; meanwhile Shetty got approval for an additional recruitment of a teaching faculty. "During April every-year, we invited both parents and the local residents for the Parents-Teacher Meeting (PTM) and started awareness on the importance of education. We pinned hopes that even non-parents would spread the word or coax their friends and relatives to send their children to school," he says. In subsequent PTA meetings, the attendance increased with highest being in October 2016 with 60 people.
Acknowledging Shetty's effort, even the local residents and friends chipped in and started financially contributing for the unregistered student’s welfare scheme - for which the Headmaster says he duly registers a log of receipts and bills. Funds raised by the locals were utilised to provide school bags, note books and transport arrangement for primary school children. "To date, we have spent around Rs. 34,870 for students’ auto-rickshaw fee. This is to ease the commute from remote areas," K Sanjeeva, a local sponsor and a member of the student welfare association said.
It was also for the first time in over 20-years, Sanjeeva says, that he witnessed that the school was able to organise an annual day with cultural programs on December 31 last year. The School Day event drew a good number and garnered attraction and envy from other neighbouring schools.
"There were instances of children from local neighbouring school admitting themselves with us. We found ourselves in a dilemma as we did not want to hurt their interests as well," he says.
On being asked why he was unable to rely on the government funds for school to meet its development needs, Shetty says that the funds are purpose specific. "It is mandatory that the amount is spent only on the components defined by the government. We don't have a free hand over its utilisation. Therefore any miscellaneous expense we have to initiate on our own," he says.
Having served over 22-years at Nanjangud (Mysuru) and Goliangadi in the last two decades, Shetty says he quite understands the burden of parents from Lower Income Groups (LIG's). "They might feel short of a helping hand now. But when their children are well-educated and are successful, they will definitely thank them for educating them and will also look after their parents during their old age," he says.
While in 2018, the school was anticipating the total strength to raise up to 40 numbers, the recent government guideline mandating the intake of students aged only 5.5 years old has hurt their interest. "As per the 2017 mandate we had considered children over 5.1 age, unfortunately their stands cancelled," Shetty says. However in June 2019, Shetty is optimist of recording the same number.
Meanwhile, Shetty hopes to raise a Rangamantapa or dais at the school for cultural events. "Few donors have come and assured contribution for the stage. I have five-more years of service. Hopefully we should be able to complete the same in the upcoming years," he says.
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