State of rural education in India
Literacy is the engine of all development. Good schools turn out good citizens, who are the bulwark of democracy. Village schools in India are still in a primitive stage – lacking basic amenities, good and dedicated teachers, proper teaching aids and good management. An unattractive school compounds the problem of non enrolment and early drop outs. After 65 years of independence, the continuing low literacy rate is a matter of serious concern. Also, the quality of education varies widely from the urban to the village school. It also depends on whether it is a government school, an aided school or a private school. Government initiatives during the last 65 years do not seem to have made much impact on the drive to improve spread of literacy or to the quality of education. In that context, the question arises if there is a way for others, like charitable organizations, to support and supplement the efforts of Government in this task.
An initiative that deserves support
SRI RAMANI RANGANAYAKI TRUST,was founded on the 5th September, 2001, with the object of trying to find answers to some of the questions raised above. They have chosen a small hamlet named Vadakurangaduthurai (Aduthurai,for short) in Papanasam Taluk of Thanjavur District in Tamil Nadu, located on the left bank of the River Cauvery , 21 kms from Kumbakonam on the road to Thiruvaiyaru, to start a rural school which would provide modern, quality, value – based education to the poor rural kids at little or no cost to them. With a 1400 year old Dayanidheeswarar Shiva temple adorning the village, with green groves all around, with adequate land available and with Kaveri river flowing at arm’s length, the ambience and conditions in Aduthurai village were just right to start a school.
Aduthurai has remained an island of neglect, unaffected by the all round progress that other villages made in the last 50 years. It is predominantly agricultural in activity and, in the absence of a good school, the children become dropouts and stay-put in the village, without education or work. The promoters felt that much of what was desirable in the educational system in the olden days, like developing a sense of right and wrong in the children through moral education, inculcating in them faith in God, cultivating tolerance in them, teaching them to be nationalistic in outlook and to avoid parochialism, showing respect to elders etc., was no longer practiced in the schools now. SRIVIDYASRAM , the village school envisaged by the promoters , wanted to remedy such ills in a humble way by trying to bring out some 30 well groomed and well rounded children every year who can be trend setters for the future.
SRIVIDYASRAM adopted the motto “Is it possible to give to poor village children the same facilities and quality of education , at nil or negligible cost to them , as is available to town bred children in public schools whose fee structure is far beyond the means of the rural poor ?”
All necessary approvals to build and run a Primary School were obtained from the different Government agencies like the Tahsildar , Civil and Public Health engineers, Superintendent of Police and the Education Department at Thanjavur. The Trust applied for and obtained the PAN (Permanent Account No) AACTS5624G from the Income Tax Department, Chennai.The Trust was registered with the Income Tax Department on 11th January, 2002 as a charitable venture under sec 12AA of the Income Tax Act, which permits donors to the Trust to avail of tax rebate under sec 80 G of the Income Tax Act.
The Trust was also registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India, New Delhi on the 13th July, 2004 under the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976 with registration number 075900998 / Educational & Social which paved the way to obtain donations from a large number of friends in USA.
The Trust bought a piece of land measuring 180’ x 30’ at a cost of Rs 48,000 and started constructing class rooms of size 14’ x 12’. Four class rooms were built, apart from a Rest Room for boys and girls, between September, 2001 and June, 2002. . The play area for the kids was also made ready. A big play ground (200’ X 125’) was an added attraction for the children. A Ganesha Temple was also built to inculcate bhakthi and devotion in the students.
Inauguration of the School
The School was inaugurated on the 17th June, 2002 by Swami Sri Omkarananda of Pondicherry and Babhaji Raja Bhonsle Chatrapathi of Thanjavur in the august presence of the Thiruvaiyaru Adeenam Thambiran and Rani Gayatri Devi. Forty seven children joined the LKG and UKG classes on June 17, 2002. On Vijaya dasami Day, 25 children were admitted in the Pre-LKG class, bringing the total to 72 children (40 boys & 32 girls) in 3 classes. 54 donors came forward to meet the cost of educating one child each. The school provided everything free to the children during the first 3 years – books, note books, uniform and mid day meal and started charging a small fee only from June, 2005.
In the absence of trained teachers, who were reluctant to work in a village school with no amenities, SRIVIDYASRAM picked up four local girls, who had finished their 12th standard studies, and trained them to serve as teachers. Apart from the training given to the teachers by the promoters, they were also sent for training to the well known Children’s Garden School, situated in Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai in Mylapore, Chennai. The Frobel (Montessori) system of education first popularized in Chennai by Dr. V.N.Sharma and his German wife, Mrs. Ellen Sharma, the founders of that school, has been adopted by SRIVIDYASRAM. Ms Hema Sridhar was nominated by the School to help the newly found Kindergarden School. Simultaneously, the teachers selected were encouraged and helped to become Graduate Teachers so that their services could be availed of after one or two years.
In the first year (2002-03), the children were given two sets of uniform free. Books, notebooks and midday meal were also provided free. The children were examined daily by a medical practitioner and minor ailments were attended to immediately. The children were given toilet soap and hair oil, if necessary, so that they come to the school fresh and tidy. A Parent – Teacher Association was formed to look after the interests of the children.
SRIVIDYASRAM has come up on 31,150 sq. ft. of land owned by the Trust. Sixteen airy classrooms, each of size 20’ by 18’, have been constructed to house 8 classes (ultimately, two sections in each class) from Pre-KG to Std-V.
Building of class rooms continued without stoppage, thanks to the munificence of philanthropic friends who kept making annual contributions. By June 2004, three floors were built in the first block, accommodating 12 class rooms. Almost without interruption, a new block with two floors and 8 class rooms was built. Qualified teachers became available slowly but surely. The School started plying buses to pick up children from the surrounding villages. When the villagers saw the transformation that was taking place, there was the inevitable rush for admission.
The Primary School was fully established by the time the 5th Standard was started during the academic year 2007-08. In deference to the wishes of the parents, SRIVIDYASRAM decided to upgrade the School initially as a Middle School effective from the 12th June, 2008, offering education up to the 8th Standard. While the strength in 2008-09 in Std VI was only 23 (17 boys & 6 girls) the strength went up once the School started accepting lateral induction from other schools. The parents kept urging SRIVIDYASRAM to take action to upgrade the school as a Matriculation School. Accordingly, after a lot of paper work was done, Government approval was obtained on the 11th December, 2009 to start SRIVIDYASRAM MATRICULATION SCHOOL from the academic year 2009-2010.