When A Headmaster Is Dedicated, The School Flourishes
A good school enhances the prestige of the locality. People start taking pride in it and volunteer to take part in its activities. They never hesitate to contribute their bit to the development of the school.
This kind of transformation, though rare, is not unachievable as shown by a government primary school in Jammu, a village in the outskirts of Vizianagaram town in Andhra Pradesh.
Thanks to the dedicated headmaster Mantri Rammohan Rao, Jammu is the most talked-about village in north coastal Andhra Pradesh for its school and community support.
Rammohan Rao landed in Jammu as the headmaster of Mandal Parishad school in 2011 amid appalling conditions. The Hudhud cyclone of 2014 further worsened the situation.
Lack of grants to take up repairs, parents’ disinclination to send their children to the school, poverty in the vicinity reflected in the appearance and functioning of government schools everywhere.
A few teachers, however, instead of confining themselves to the curriculum, walk the extra mile like Rao to make a difference in these schools. Rao succeeded in building a bond between the school and the community around for the benefit of the students.
Located near the Musafir colony of migrant labourers and other colonies of low-income families, the school presented a dismal picture when he arrived at the school nine years back.
With no compound wall and weather-worn walls it looked dull and uninspiring. Sometimes, in the evenings the school would become a shelter for drunkards who had little regard for the school. They would consume the liquor and throw the bottles and left-over food all around.
Students had to clean the area before settling for a class next morning.
The school had no toilet. As the national highway passes by the school, girl students used to suffer in silence.
The pathetic condition of the school failed to stimulate an urge among the parents to admit their wards in the school. So the dropout rate was very high.
Upon entering the school premises with poor attendance, Rao did not get intimidated. Instead, he vowed to transform the place into an attractive and sought after school.
It took almost nine years of hard labour for Rao to bring about a total transformation in the environment, and attitude of local people towards the school.
Today it is one of the best-run government schools in the state especially in the north coastal Andhra. The Jammu Mandal Parishad school looks like a garden with a gated-compound wall, tall shade-giving trees, user-friendly western-type toilets and even an RO water facility.
Talking to The Lede, Rao humbly attributed the success to the community. “We have no dearth of donors now,” he declares. “Our students are lucky. Donors are taking care of many of the students' requirements.”
Lush green with cool shade, every inch of the walls of the school has become a medium for education with graffiti.
Unlike its counterparts across the state, the students of Rao’s school are given breakfast in the morning. An auto is engaged to transport the students from Musafir colony where reluctant parents felt it unsafe to send their children to the school on their own.
A parents’ committee is set up to manage and monitor school activities and day to day problems.
Finally, the school won the hearts of the people and of course, many awards from the government in every aspect of the Swachcha practices.
Having seen the change in the school, many donors are coming forward to support Rao’s exemplary work.
How It All Happened
Rammohan Rao had experimented with a novel idea of mobilising the community to own up the school. He succeeded in inculcating the idea that a good school enhances the prestige of the locality.
First, he began his work of improving the school environment with his own donation of Rs 50,000 to whitewash the school building. The small and insignificant school has its own alumni which he roped in as well.
He approached the forest department to supply saplings. He went around the Musafir colony to persuade the parents to enroll their wards in the school.
His attempts first failed. “I was disturbed by the pathetic conditions of the colony, where children were ending up as rag pickers. I continued my efforts for about six months. Finally, they came around to my point of view and 30 students joined the school. I arranged an auto to fetch the students and drop after the school paying Rs 4500 pm from my own pocket,” Rao said.
Rao set up a post box in the school for the students to drop in anonymous letters on the problems they were facing.
“Students are free to bring any problem, both personal and academic, to the notice of the headmaster in anonymous letters. This is taken with a positive attitude and the staff members would try to fix the issues immediately. The box is a huge hit,” he said.
Rao periodically organised meetings with parents and local philanthropists to discuss the issues of the school and to seek their support in transforming it into a decent school.
Rao’s work drew the attention of many philanthropists in the town. While a donor helped set up the gate for the compound, others donated an arch with the school’s name to erect at the entrance.
“The school was constructed in a low-lying area which would get flooded whenever there were rains. We could raise the level of land with gravel with the help of other donors.
Lion’s Club was responsible for the RO filter. Toilets were renovated keeping in view the physically challenged at a cost of Rs 1.5 lakh,” Rao reads out the list donors, who are interested in the well-being of children here.
In the meantime, having heard of the development at the school, Kurivella Harigopal, Joint Secretary of Shirdi Saibaba Seva Sangham volunteered to supply breakfast for all students every day at 8 am.
The breakfast items are chosen based on the nutritional demands of children. The breakfast is prepared at the school itself with the help of midday meal scheme workers.
A donor came forward to give snacks and fruits in the afternoon to discourage children from eating junk food.
Another donor came up with an interesting proposal to reward members of the parents’ management committee. He insisted that the committee should meet monthly and announced gifts for regular attendees.
“The donor will offer a gift worth Rs 600 (saree or men’s dress material) for the members who attend more than two consecutive meetings,” Rao said.
“There is no dearth of donors now. The school has immense community support. With their help, we have constructed a compound wall. An RO water filter has been installed. We have overcome water scarcity as well. Now the school is earning kudos from all sections,” Rao said triumphantly.
The most interest aspect of Rao’s school governance is that the teachers oversee the student's growth even after they passed out of the school.
They assist the children in getting admission to the right high school and periodically make visits to the high schools to inquire about the performance of their former students.
“We follow up on our students studies and help them overcome problems in their higher classes till the complete the SSC,” Rao explained.
The Lede had earlier reported on another success story, that of Kotresha Bavihalli, a teacher of a government school in Karnataka who had transformed the school and brought students back.
Kotresha has now been selected as Icon 2020 by the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. He will be presented with the award in January in Yugaantar, a national youth conference organised by the university.
It is indeed fitting to reward such unsung heroes. It is due to their efforts that underprivileged students get a good education and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.