Rural school sows seeds of hope in Karnataka

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BANGALORE: Addagal is a small, isolated village in Kolar district of Karnataka. About 110 km from Bangalore, Addagal has fragmented fields where corn, tomato and groundnut are cultivated. The only thing out of place is a two-storey, well-maintained building of Adarsha Vidya Samsthe (AVS), a English-medium high school.

For semi-literate or majorly illiterate villagers who dream of good education for their children in the village bordering Andhra Pradesh, AVS offers hope — its founders wanted to give the rural folk a school that provides all the facilities of an urban school.

The school has everything a city school offers — internet, library, remedial teaching and extracurricular activities. The students, 365 of them from kindergarten to Class X, are mostly first-generation learners. Children of mostly farmers, learning is new and exciting for them. Many from neighbouring villages travel nearly 10 km to reach the school solely depending on the irregular bus services. “You would see them walking with worn-out shoes and uniform but excited to learn,” a teacher said.

“We look at providing children equal opportunities and exposure in their own surroundings. That’s why we encourage people to do more for the rural folk,” said school’s managing trustee Prithvi Reddy who has roots in Addagal. The brainchild of Reddy’s family, the school started in year 2000 has IT professionals and entrepreneurs in its governing council.

The school is not without its own challenges: a three-hour power supply, poor connectivity and getting teachers to stay in the village. The easiest way to handle manpower is to train existing teachers in the village. Workshops are held on communicative English, teaching Maths in simple ways and bringing creativity to Science classes.

The school has come a long way. “When we started, we had to deal with issues like gender bias, women teachers walking in late, dropouts and absenteeism. Also, there were no toilets. Now, it’s a smooth system,” says Baghirathy Manacha, who works with the school. “Having worked in schools with good infrastructure, I learnt to build empathy and sympathy here,” she says.

The school charges an annual fee of Rs 1,600 for kindergarten and Rs 3,000 for high school students. “Some parents cannot afford even that. It all depends upon rain. If their crop has good yield, they pay fees. Mostly illiterate, they cannot teach children at home. Some might not turn up for parents-teachers meetings,” says K Srimathi Reddy, principal.

“My parents are not educated. I want to learn, become a teacher and make my family proud,” said Lavanya P S, Class 10 student.

“I never wanted to become a teacher, but now I’m enjoying every bit of it. I’m learning as much as kids do. I read up on subjects, discuss with experts and answer the kids’ questions,” said Rajshekhar G S, teacher.

“This was an eye-opener. We had no idea how a rural school works. We were in an imaginative land till we came here and faced the truth,” said Nitin Jagtap, governing council member.

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