SOS: Save Our Schools: The shifting of SMV School from Vanchiyoor invited criticism from all quarters
The school has a list of distinguished headmasters. Its first headmaster was the famous scholar A. Narayana Iyer who was succeeded by U.Ramakrishna Kukkuliya (Kukkuliya lane in the city is named after him), J.T. Yesudasan and A. Sankara Pillai, respectively. (Kaduva) Subramonya Iyer and T.Raman Nambisan followed.
Teachers of early days included N. K. Venkitesan, H. Sankara Subramanya Iyer, M.C. Thomas, Vaidyanatha Iyer, P. A. Sundara Iyer, Sasthamangalam Ramakrishna Pillai (author of the poem ‘Bhikshakkari’), C. P. Varghese (Physics), P.G. Sundaram, E. R. Krishna Iyer, R. Sankara Narayan Iyer, A. Subramanya Iyer, Dr. P. K. Pillai, M. K. Raman (Oxford M.A.), Dr. N. P. Pillai (who later became Professor of Education in University of Kerala), T.S. Ramaiyer, K. J. Leenos, Thampi Haris, R. P. Nair, Dr. B.K. Pillai, Prof. Paramu Pillai, M.A. Sankara Pillai, Nalankal Krishna Pillai and N. Krishna Pillai.
A British educated teacher of the school, K.V. W. Dharan, organised the Vanchiyoor Cricket Club on the school premises in 1941. The school became the first hub of student strikes in the city when students revolted against the 50 per cent fee hike and stoned not only vehicles on the road, but trains too.
The Travancore Legislative Council records of 1922-23 mention indiscipline prior to these strikes in SMV School. The strike seems to have been taken over by the students of Maharaja’s College (present University College) and the police action that followed allegedly resulted in a student’s death. It became a political debate (the government maintained that the boy died of typhoid and not injuries). Later, student unrest accelerated against the backdrop of the struggles led by State Congress.
Perhaps, to thwart the confluence of SMV school students with St. Joseph’s School students, Diwan C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer shifted the school to the present venue in 1943. The protest and pain in this unexplained move by the diwan remain in the writings and words of the school’s alumni.
M.K.K. Nair and veteran actor Madhu mince no words in expressing their deep pain for having removed the school from its superb campus. M.A. Shakoor, an alumni, wrote from Essex to one of the teachers of the school in 1984 thus: “C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer vandalised my school which I had loved so much, I felt like crying and I have never forgiven him and still execrate his name whenever I think of my school.”
Similar sentiments can be seen in writings of many alumni. Anyone who has taken time to feel the District Court campus in Vanchiyoor wouldn’t be surprised.
When the school was moved, it literally created noise. Devakiamma, an octogenarian school teacher from Mannamoola who lived in Vanchiyoor during those days, vividly recalls the noise from the school while removing the furniture that was permanently fixed to the floor.
These ‘dual desks/gallery furniture’ with metal frames, have back rest held on to the desk behind. They were permanently fixed in the new school venue too, and remain unsuitable for tall students. The furniture has provisions to hold ink pots and rest the stylus. They deserve to be preserved in a museum.
These desks were moved (along with school bell) to the new campus which had a row of simple rooms with windows which had no grills. The school also had no playground and had to wait 35 years for one. The school had lost its glory. Not all students moved from Vanchiyoor to the new make-shift campus. Actor Madhu chose to move to Pettah School in 1943.
(This is the second of the three-part series on the glorious history of SMV Higher Secondary School)