It was paddy harvest time at the Government High School, Pappanamcode

The staff and students of Government High School Pappanamcode had a field day at the ‘Koithu Mahotsavam’, where they (literally) got down and dirty harvesting paddy on the school campus! This was the second year in a row that they were harvesting paddy on the school campus, which has three khandams (paddy fields) and an extensive vegetable garden too.

The second edition of ‘Koithu Mahotsavam’ began with celebratory cries of aarppuvili, followed by a folk song rendered by a bunch of students, the boys dressed in traditional farmers’ attire of checked dhotis and baniyans complete with Palmyra caps, and the girls attired in colourful ‘mundu and thorthu’. The staff members and the rest of the students lined up on the sides of the khandam. Then, it was time for the actual koithu (harvest). Amid exuberant cheers, the chief guest, up-and-coming actor Mahalakshmi, did the honours, sickle in hand, followed by invited guests, the staff and the students.

Looking on with pride was M. Ajayadev, former Malayalam teacher of the school, who spearheaded the idea of cultivating paddy on campus. “In school textbooks [SSLC] we now have a few chapters on agriculture. I’m a keen agriculturalist, hailing from rural Erumeli, and I thought it would be prudent to teach the kids a few practical aspects of agriculture too. The headmistress P.V. Padmaja wholeheartedly agreed to it and set the idea rolling, often dipping into her own pocket to fund the activities. And that’s how we sowed the seeds for a paddy field,” says Ajayadev, who now teaches at Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Manacaud.

But before they could plant paddy they had to clear the entire back lot of the campus that was covered in dense foliage. “The back lot was a huge mound. Working before school and after class, a group of senior students hacked through the mound with pick-axes and levelled the area. We demarcated the area for a paddy field, and made it ready for cultivation using a crude version of a furrow to till the field by hand,” says Ajayadev. They got some 50 kg of rice during the first harvest, which was used to make payasam for the 152 students of the school and a dozen members of staff. “We’ve now got to thresh the paddy and, with the adding of two more paddy fields this academic year, we hope the harvest will be even more,” says Ashalata K.R., teacher and convener of the agricultural activities of the school.