For students of Baarali village in Udupi district’s Brahmavar taluk, Rajaram is not just their science and mathematics teacher but also the one person, who ensured that they did not drop out of school.
The students in Baarali and surrounding villages began dropping out of the Baarali Government Higher Primary School over a year ago as the children had to trek through 3-km of forest area to reach the school.
“There are no roads from the houses of the children to the school. There is a mud path through the forest and most of the girl students began dropping out as their families were scared of allowing their children to walk for a total of 6 km to and from school,” Rajaram says.
Saddened by the state of affairs, Rajaram reached out to one of the school’s former students – Vijay Hegde, who runs a property management company in Bengaluru.
“The children were dropping out quickly and with the head count in our school falling low, we were at the threat of shutting down too. One evening, I had finished counting how many children had dropped out and I was upset. Every week at least five to six students were not turning up. I called up one of our former students – Vijay Hegde and proposed the idea of buying a bus to pick up and drop the children,” Rajaram says.
Around six months ago, Vijay Hegde, another alumna of the school Ganesh Shetty and Rajaram pooled in money and bought a bus for the school. Appointing a driver would have cost Rajaram at least Rs 7,000, which he could not afford, so he decided to drive the bus himself.
“I live on the meagre salary of a government school teacher. I could not afford to pay for a driver. Hence, I decided that I would learn how to drive the bus and do the task myself,” he adds.
Rajaram also got himself a license to drive the bus and he began the pick-up and drop service for the students. Once the pick-up and drop facility began, the school’s strength increased from 50 to 90.
Every morning, Rajaram leaves home early in the morning and completes four pick-up trips by 9.20 am.
“The school starts at 9.30 am and I make sure that all students are on time. There are three teachers including me and a headmistress in our school. One of the teachers comes to school before the students from the first trip reach school. The teachers stay back in school until all the students are dropped off and I come back to park the bus,” Rajaram says.
Rajaram spends money from his own pocket on vehicle insurance and diesel for the bus. Now, he wants to construct a track for the school so the students can practice 100 m and 200 m sprints for track events.
“I am thinking of constructing a fence around the school and also a track so children can practise sports. The problem is I don’t have enough money. I have reached out to the alumni of the school and asked if they will help. So far, there is money trouble but I am sure we will surpass that hurdle as well. The children will be motivated to attend classes if there are sports and other activities,” Rajaram added.