An effort to save Government Central School, Attakulangara

At the first sign of rain, students would clamber on top of desks with a stick and poke holes through the roof made of dried coconut palm leaves.

The unsuspecting teacher would later walk in only to have to call off the class because of several leaks in the roof. S. Lalitha, who has nearly 30 years of experience in teaching Mathematics, recalled fondly the stunts pulled by the students she once taught at the Government Central School, Attakulangara – a school whose existence is now being threatened by a government project to build a bus bay and shopping complex.

She was one among the over 50 people who attended a meeting organised on the school premises on Sunday morning by the School Protection Samithi.

Ms. Lalitha remembers another monsoon that left much of the school flooded for days since it is built on a low-lying area.

“Books got submerged and even though classes were cancelled, several students and I took on the task of hauling them outside, laying them on benches so that they would dry,” said the former teacher, who joined the school in the early 1960s.

The emotional connection to the school’s history aside, she indicated the towering trees on the campus.

Comfort of the shade

“We cannot sit indoors comfortably at noon on a March day. There is no breeze and yet I have not heard a single person complain about the heat under this shade,” she said.

Once, there were over 2,500 students and it was only during the past decade that the strength dwindled to double-digits.

The school, to many of its alumni, has come to symbolise the general fall in the quality of State-run schools leading many to be termed ‘uneconomic’.

A mission to resurrect

In a mission to resurrect the former glory of the 125-year-old institution, children and parents in the city were spoken to but this shed light on another major shortcoming here – the lack of school buses, said Ms. Lalitha.

Despite repeated pleas, the school was not upgraded to higher secondary level either, another indication that the school had been neglected.

M. Subramanian, who secured first rank in 1971 for the SSLC examination was also present at the function.

He indicated the condition of the school buildings and said the priority should be to first, reverse the government order to acquire the two acres here and then to rebuild the school.

Former Minister Binoy Viswom questioned the process of rating government schools as ‘uneconomic’.

Development was needed but not at the cost of losing this campus, he stressed.

Alternative options must be looked in to, he said, encouraging members of Tree Walk and the school protection committee to form an action plan and to speak to candidates of the Lok Sabha elections.

Aam Aadmi Party’s Ajit Joy attended the programme and said the party’s stand was to protect the school’s heritage. SUCI candidate M. Shajar Khan also pledged his support for the cause.