What is your first impression of school corridors? Dull spaces with drab walls where one can do little. Two architects who changed this notion in government schools in Karnataka, Gujarat and a few other States are in Tamil Nadu as part of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan's initiative to make the schools more child-friendly.

“It is going to be easier working in Tamil Nadu as ABL (Activity-based learning) has already brought about a difference inside the classroom. We are going to link ABL with BaLA (Building as Learning Aid) to create a learning environment on the corridors and outdoor,” said Kabir Vajpeyi and Preeti Vajpeyi, who run an architectural research and design firm Vinyas. They were in the city to address a two-day workshop, from Wednesday, to explain to block resource teachers and engineers BaLA, a holistic plan to make good use of indoor, outdoor and corridor space for teaching and learning in primary and upper primary schools.

“We do not bring about cosmetic changes and neither do we do field visits to see how they implement, it is the community which goes about making the changes depending on the locally available resources,” says Ms. Preeti.

The window grills when slightly modified double up as abacus or improve the motor ability; barren corridors get creative with board games and puzzles; measuring scale or clock on the walls become learning experience and outdoors with flower and fruit bearing trees make school an exciting place in BaLA.

On how cost-effective BaLA is for government schools to implement, Mr. Kabir says that 10 per cent of the estimated repair cost of the building is enough to introduce such learning activities. “But if you have to break open a plain corridor then the cost is more,” he says. In Karnataka, 10,000 schools adopted the BaLA model in 2006-2007. “The zero hour has increased once floor, walls, window … were added with activity and in Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka we studied that children have shifted from private to government schools,” the couple says.

However, the challenge is for the teachers and engineers to work in close collaboration and give shape to the ideas.” says Kabir. To start with, in Tamil Nadu five schools in each district would be identified by the engineers and resource teachers to sketch a plan, said M.P. Vijaya Kumar, advisor, SSA.


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