On Sunday, over a 100 people of all ages converged on the grounds of the 41-year-old Parayancheri government school to build a new higher secondary school block, and in the process save the school its playground.
It was the first day at work. In attendance were students and teachers, members of local cultural groups, politicians, and generally anyone interested in taking up the rough and tumble of construction work.
A few weeks ago, the school was on the verge of losing its play area – a precious open space in the crowded city — when the Kozhikode Corporation decided to build the new block there for Rs.30 lakh.
The entire community rose in protest. Yes, the children sorely needed new classrooms, but not at the cost of the playground. A school development committee, of parents, teachers, and local people, was urgently formed.
A unanimous decision was taken to demolish the crumbling five-room structure passing off as the higher secondary school block and build a new one in the same space. They would all pool money for the work.
The Corporation agreed and decided to pitch in with Rs.30 lakh. The public would bear the rest of the cost for the new three-room block. “The old building was unfit for use — 420 students had to sit under a leaky roof this monsoon. There was no laboratory or office. Teachers, 24 of them, had to sit on the veranda, which served as the staff room. Even the restrooms were in the high school block,” Manoj Kumar P.L., a teacher, said during a break from the demolition work.
Two classes were held in makeshift conditions on the school’s open-air stage and a shed built by the PTA. Parayancheri school, in Puthiyara ward, is an ideal example of crowded government schools within Kozhikode Corporation limits where academic expansion over the years has not converted to better infrastructure.
Started in 1964 as a high school, the school grew, including vocational higher secondary and Plus Two courses. Though this meant more students and staff, the government conveniently forgot to provide the requisite infrastructure.
“In the high school section, students from two separate divisions sit in the same class. There are around 70 students in one class,” Sabeera U.P., another teacher, said.
She is apprehensive that the poor infrastructure would affect the school’s annual pass percentage. “Some years ago, the pass percentage was zero. We worked hard to produce 98 per cent pass this year. But if this situation continues in the high school, the performance will go back to zero,” Ms. Sabeera said.
“Vocational higher secondary and higher secondary courses were introduced in government schools, but adequate infrastructure was not provided. Only a maintenance grant is given,” P. Divakaran, former Puthiyara ward councillor said.
“As per government order, a school requires minimum three acres of land. But most of the 20 government schools within the Corporation limits function on land ranging from 20 cents to one acre,” Chandran K.M., Assistant Education Officer (Kozhikode City), said.
He said that though government schools in rural Kozhikode have constructed new buildings, students from those areas still prefer government schools in the city.