Teachers set out to enrol students to prevent closing of Pachaiyappa's School on N.S.C. Bose Road
For teachers of this 170-year-old institution, summer vacations are shorter. Like in the previous years, the staff of Pachaiyappa's College Higher Secondary School, located on N.S.C. Bose Road, spends a few weeks of the break to visit different localities in north Chennai to canvass for enrolment.
This government-aided school, although unique because it only runs classes IX to XII, has seen its strength coming down over the years. This is a concern faced by quite a few government and aided schools, but a team of teachers in this school, run by the Pachaiyappa's Trust, is fighting closure by trying to get more students on its rolls. “We don't want a situation to come where the school will have to close down because of poor strength,” says K. Gajalakshmi, who teaches history. She spent last Sunday visiting pockets in Pulianthope with two other students from the school to campaign for the institution.
Including the headmaster, there are 16 teaching staff for this school of 400 students. Last year, the strength of students came down by 50, and the teachers fear that if this trend were to continue, they might be transferred to other schools. Their enrolment drive seeks to make up for this loss, and so far they have succeeded in getting nearly 50 new students every year.
“There are 14 schools within a two-and-a-half kilometre radius,” says S. Jeyachandran, headmaster of the school who retires this month. To draw students, it serves free lunch, charges a nominal tuition fee and is more than happy to admit first generation learners. All these initiatives might be helping the school get students after a lot of effort, but its location (it is opposite the busy Broadway bus terminus) often works to its disadvantage.
The school is surrounded by dime-a-dozen vendors. Inside too, the heritage building faces threat from natural calamities. Also, shortage of funds is slowly taking away the charm of the school, which has a ceiling made of Burma teak wood and Mangalore tiles resting over it. Each of the classrooms has two doors giving plenty of ventilation and in fact soaking the chaos of the commercial street.
“From my retirement amount, I have taken Rs. 4 lakh for maintenance of the building, I only wished even the management showed a little more interest in taking care of the school, which is the first aided institution in South India,” says Mr. Jeyachandran, who has served 33 years in the school.
The building also houses the Govinda Naicker Secondary School (having classes VI, VII and VIII) in the first floor run by the same management but with a different headmaster.
According to B. Rajagopal, secretary of the Trust, the school is not generating any funds so maintaining the building is also a challenge. “I want to apply for self sufficiency scheme of the government as we do not have money,” he says.