When Murugan, a government school teacher realised that the enrolment levels in his school are coming down, he immediately contacted his friend R Rajasekaran, a Tamil language teacher, for help. An artist Rajasekaran came up with the idea of painting the classroom walls and compound walls with beautiful pictures. With the help of other teachers from the school, he completed the painting activity. The response from the parents and students were overwhelmingly positive. Initially, the school had only 30 students, but once the painting was done, the number of admissions increased to more than 80. The news spread like wildfire and teachers from various government schools in Tamil Nadu started approaching Rajasekaran.
“Parents admitting their children in a government school do not entirely depend on the ‘condition’ of the school. There are various factors to it. That said, if the school
building is colourful, it will definitely attract children as they love to learn in a colourful and vibrant atmosphere. Moreover, by painting the school with colourful pictures, we can make the campus children-friendly. This will also instill a sense of responsibility in students — they will start keeping the school premises tidy as well,” he says.
Rajasekaran started receiving many requests and with the support of other like-minded teachers, he started a group called Pattampoochikal with the tagline Arasu Palligalai Kaappom (Let’s save government schools). The group has 35 volunteers, out of which 30 are school teachers and 5 are professional artists. “As of now, we are only focussing on government schools in rural and urban areas. Once we get a request from a government school, we get in touch with the school authorities and understand what kind of renovation they needed. Either the teachers or some old students from the school buy paint and other materials. We will be painting during the weekends, public holidays and vacations by staying on the campus itself.
We focus on images related to their subjects, socially relevant matters like tree plantation, plastic recycling, pollution control, child labour, rainwater harvesting, Tamil folk dances like silambattam, oyilattam, mayilattam, etc.,” explains the 36-year-old teacher.
So far, they have done painting in 81 government schools in Tamil Nadu. Rajasekaran and his team are also planning to hold storytelling sessions in schools across the state. “Today’s children don’t have the opportunity to listen to Tamil folktales and history. Through this programme, we aim to enrich the children’s knowledge. Apart from this, we are also planning to organise sensitisation camps for teachers,” he remarks.