A school that used to print its own magazine and produce lakh of notebooks, a school with award-winning teachers, a school that gifted the city with a stadium by converting a pond… SMV Higher Secondary School is all this and more.
In the period since the Sree Moola Vilasom (SMV) School was shifted to the new campus on M.G. Road in 1943, many headmasters led the school – N. Viswambharan, K.G. Shankara Pillai, poet M.P. Appan and so on. However, the school history of the period is dominated by the decade-long contributions of R. Velayudhan Thampi who held the reins of the school from 1971-1981.
Hailing from Vilavankode in Kanyakumari, he entered teaching service in 1949 as a teacher of mathematics. When he arrived at SMV, the school had slumped to a low with SSLC results almost touching single digits and student strikes becoming a regular feature, which earned the school the nick name of ‘Sthiram Mudakku Vidyalayam’. With his charismatic leadership that mixed disciplinary measures with Gandhian activism, he lifted the school to great heights. The pass percentage rose to 87 per cent. Strikes were reined in. Students were motivated to beautify the school building and involve in a bit of gardening. In fact, records show that sale of tapioca generated a revenue of Rs. 3,000 in 1977.
The school had no proper playground then. The open area in the middle of the campus was a hillock. The Government’s estimated cost was Rs. 2 lakh, but the school raised Rs. 50,000 and finished the work with some voluntary service from institutions, organisations and individuals.
To top it all, he got the students involved in filling a pond owned by the school and converting it into a stadium. The soil that was removed during the demolition of the hillock was used to fill the pond. Manjalikulam (or Vavanjalikulam) was then a decaying pond and breeding ground of mosquitoes and a headache for the residents nearby. During the effort that was started during the Gandhi Jayanthi (October 2) of 1975, 3,000 loads of sand and soil (mostly from Shanghumughom beach from the mandapam area, which, incidentally, left a hole on the beach for some time).
Filling the pond was hailed by one and all. However, both the construction in farm land in 1919 and filling of the pond in 1975-77 today would have evoked protest due to evolved environmental awareness. It is to be suspected that the filling of this pond is very much a cause of flooding in Thampanoor area.
Velayudhan Thampi was honoured with State and National Awards for Teachers and the school was conferred with the first Chakeeri Ahammed Kutty Trophy for the best school in 1977.
C. Achutha Menon praised Thampi in the print media and the school reached its pinnacle of glory. The Manjalikulam Stadium is rightly named after Velayudhan Thampi who passed away in 1998.
A. Abdul Hameed who headed the school in 1999-2002 also contributed to school development in a major way. He led the renovation of the temple on the school premises. In 1998, the higher secondary section was added to the school.
The school has a press that was established in 1956 (imported from the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). It had been in use till 1970s. The school magazine of 1977 was printed in this press itself. Today the hall that houses the press wears a deserted look. It also used to get students to make note books in the ‘Earn While You Learn’ scheme with 7.5 lakh books made in 1977 with some students earning Rs. 600 each for their efforts. The telephone for the school was purchased from the money got from sale of waste paper from the press.
The Sanchayika bank for school children was run well in the school and was adjudged as the best in the district for 17 years in a stretch under the leadership of K. Ayyappan Pillai who received National Award for making SMV the only school with all students enrolled in Sanchayika. The present headmistress is Usha Devi, the first woman to hold the position.
The school campus is close to five acres of land with a large playground in the middle and a statue of Bharathamba erected in the 1970s. A new building for the higher secondary section and an auditorium are both additions in the last two decades, but the school still has space constraints. The two acre, 10-cent Manjalikulam is behind the school and across the Manjalikulam Road and is often occupied by melas. A small playground opposite Manjalikulam stadium now houses the Shikshak Sadan.
The white and white uniform of SMV school is now restricted to class 10 alone and its school song of yesteryear (‘Sreemoola vilasini bhaasini’ composed by the then DPI R. Ramachandran Nair) has been replaced with another number. The majestic Headmaster’s office is now rebuilt and the class room wings on the right of the entrance are readying for demolition after its roof collapsed. Will the dual desks find place in some museum?
The school authorities as well as local community and media successfully resisted an alleged plan to build a shopping complex in the school campus as a part of road widening. It finally was reduced to taking over of land for a bus bay.
In 1920s, the school had 1,600 students and it rose to 2,500 in 1990 and has now fallen to about 600 students with the upper primary school having about only 60 students. The higher secondary section which has close to 1,000 students gives SMV the look of a thriving school. This is a possible route to survival for many schools run by the Government to overcome the falling number of students.
On the rolls
Former students include M.K.K. Nair, Dr. Kesavan Nair, Dr. P.K. Iyengar, Thottam Rajasekharan, film star Madhu, architect Sankar, P. Subramaniyam of Meryland Studios, former ministers C. Divakaran, R. Balakrishna Pillai and M.M. Hassan, Dr. M.M. Basheer, S. Ganesa Pillai, Baijendra Kumar, IAS, Dr. Udaysankar S. Nair, Professor, Alabama University... The author was also a student of the school in 1976-78.