The Tiruvannamalai district administration has allocated funds under various government schemes to give a ‘colourful’ image makeover to government schools and anganwadis on Jawadhu hills to attract tribal students.
The district administration also pulled up its socks and soon chalked out a programme after collector KS Kandasamy visited the hills and noticed the change.
The Jawadhu hill region is home to a total of 82 schools of which five are tribal residential schools run by the revenue department while the rest are operated by Jawadhu hills panchayat union.
“Sixty-nine schools themselves provide food for pupils, while the rest are supplied from the nearest school,” the Collector said. “The idea to spruce up the schools was conceived after I noticed unused dilapidated buildings used as store-rooms. I did not want a repeat of what occurred in Kerala, where a schoolgirl, whose leg was caught in a hole on the floor, died of snake bite” Kandasamy said.
Walking the talk, the collector ordered that all schools be provided facilities like construction of compound and separate toilets for boys and girls, kitchen sheds and provision of water supply under the state government’s CSIDS (Comprehensive School Improvement and Development Scheme).
Those schools which have just two classrooms will be provided additional buildings based on need at a cost of Rs 6 lakh and angawadis, which have more children, will be provided with an additional kitchen shed. Since some anganwadis were doubling as creches and having a total pupil strength of little over 200 kids, they would also be getting additional kitchen, officials said.
“Work will start in a week as soon as we finish surveying the needs of individual schools,” according to R Tamilselvan Panchayat union AE who would complete the task. “The goal is to make the school attractive so that students, who express willingness to study in government institutions rather than joining private institutions,” Kandasamy added. What encouraged the district administration to take this step was the success they achieved in increasing the enrolment in Tiruvannamalai government schools following a high voltage campaign by officials to bring students, especially dropouts, by placing huge colourful banners at vantage points in the town highlighting the merits of individual government schools and comparing the facilities that were available in private schools.
Kandasamy said “the result of this exercise was that admission increased by 3,792 in Tiruvannamalai district government schools in the current academic year, while provision of English phonetic pronunciation books to 85,000 students resulted in the percentage of students with English reading skills increasing from 65.2% to 76.9%.”
Such skill training would be imparted in tribal schools also. As a first step to boost enrolment, all schools on hills would be painted based on colour codes provided by the government. Painters would also include artistes, who will draw colourful pictures on the walls to attract students to join these govt schools on hills.
“Artistes drawn from Arani and Alangayam would be paid at the rate of Rs 30,000 per building and would be given free hand to fill up the walls with caricatures according to their imagination” says Tamilselvan. Already, the anganwadi in some hamlets have realistic pictures of buses painted on the walls. The highlight of the painting is that the entrance of the bus was drawn on the door of the classroom, which turned out to be a hit among the students.
Officials feel that “colourful and attractive government schools will make tribal children to shift from private schools, which charge fees but provide the same education as government schools” officials said and added that this would be introduced in the hills so that cash-strapped tribal residents need not pay unnecessarily for a facility which was available for free in government institutions.