For the children of Veernapalli Mandal, this was the first time that they were seeing a train. And that too at their village government school in Rajanna Sircilla, now called the ‘Telangana Express’. The staff room was painted as the engine while three classrooms were turned into the train’s bogies. Now, the children merrily play around the corridors which have been modelled as a railway station and run around from one bogie to another during their play time. Dull hues and grey cemented floors no longer deter children from attending government schools in the district.
All thanks to artist Naroju Chandu, who is giving a revamp to government schools in the district, which also happens to be IT minister KT Rama Rao’s constituency. During a visit to the village, the minister informed his personal secretary to take all measures to give a face-lift to the buildings. Accordingly, his staff roped in Naroju Chandu, who is reshaping the otherwise dull buildings into innovative structures.
The district also has a replica of the Golconda Fort, one of the landmarks in Hyderabad, at the Venkatapur Primary School of Yellareddypet Mandal. Speaking to TNM, Chandu says that when Ghambirraopet MPDO Surender asked him to paint the school, he decided to give it a look of Golconda Fort.
“In the wake of declining strength, schools are adopting different methods to retain the existing strength as well as attract students studying in private English medium schools. It took 15 days to paint the fort on the tiny school building. Swachch Bharat and other social initiatives have also been painted on the walls of the classrooms,” Chandu explains.
Chandu says that he painted the Telangana Express School with the help of photographs of trains. He came to know of a similar school building in Alwar, Rajasthan, but says that his project was unique.
Naroju Chandu has painted all the schools adopted by Minister KT Rama Rao in Desaipet of Ghambheraopet Mandal, Rajampet, Yellareddypet Mandal, Chikod, Mustabad Mandal and Ramannapet of Sircilla Mandal. He has also painted schools in Haridasnagar, Padira, Narayanpur and Veernapalli.
“It takes me around 15 days to one month to paint one school. The design depends on the school and the location. I visit the school and decide what would look nice and accordingly paint a design. The school at Venkatapur resembled structures of a fort and we decided to make a replica of the Golconda Fort,” Chandu says.
“The schools’ strength is increasing with almost all the children in the village attending school. Many kids started coming since it’s a new environment for them. Many of them have told me that they like coming to school now because they feel they have boarded a train which has been stopped at a station. The students from remote villages, who have never seen a train, are more than happy to attend a school that looks like a railway station,” Chandu says.
“The Telangana Express train school has improved attendance while sending out a message to the people that even government schools are moving at the speed of express trains these days,” he adds.
While the cost of remodelling and painting the schools are borne by the government, Chandu says that it is a laborious task to remodel a building, especially when it is meant for the kids. “We do not work on big budgets. We have limited our costs to 2-3 lakhs, no matter how big or small the school is. We are a group of 6 members and our primary aim is to make the schools more interactive for the kids, so that the paintings also have something for the students to learn from.”
Speaking to TNM, Headmaster P Devaiah of Venkatapur Primary School says that villagers are now visiting the school to have a glimpse of the ‘Golconda Fort’. “Students are showing more interest in attending classes and the strength has increased in the past one month,” he adds.
Chandu is a Fine Arts graduate and also a professional artist. “I have so far painted 15 schools, which also includes anganwadis, in the district and remodelled two. There are many schools in a dilapidated condition in Old Karimnagar and Adilabad districts and students attend classes risking their lives. These too deserve attention,” Chandu opines.