On November 1, Kerala Formation Day, when the entire State celebrated Malayalam’s entry to the Classical Language league, the government also issued an order to close down one of the oldest Malayalam-medium schools in the city — the Aided Upper Primary School, Malaparamba.
The government order (GO) cited the widening of the Kozhikode-Vellimadukunnu National Highway as the reason for the closure.
The school, believed to be 150 years old, stands on 35 cents of land and had three blocks.
The GO said the school would not be able to function from the next academic year. Among others, over a dozen students from a nearby orphanage and eight differently abled and physically challenged students, most of them from economically poor backgrounds, studied here. The students, parents, and teachers were a worried lot knowing little of what to do or where to go. “It is sad that the authorities did not bother even to consult us before taking such an important decision,” N.M. Preethi, Headmistress of the school, said.
The parent-teachers association (PTA) opposed the management’s move to obtain permission from the government to close down the school. “Only a portion of one of the three buildings is to be demolished for road widening and that will not affect the functioning of the school,” PTA president K.P. Ajithkumar said.
“Yet, the authorities have decided to close it down,” he said. Mr. Ajithkumar said a people’s committee had been formed recently to protest against the move. “We have already decided to move the court against the decision. We cannot allow the winding up of a well-functioning school with a long history,” he said.
Teacher’s bodies including the Kerala School Teachers’ Association (KSTA) had come out strongly against the move. “The management has secured sanction to wind up the school by misleading the government. We cannot support the move by any means,” Radhakrishnan Iravil, KSTA branch secretary, said.
The District Education Office was not in favour of closing down the school. “We did not give a report in favour of a closing down the school as land was available at the school for the construction of new buildings,” K.M. Chandran, Assistant Education Officer (Kozhikode City), said.
Former Deputy Director of Education (DDE) P. Gouri, during whose tenure the report was submitted to the government, said it was ultimately for the government to take a call on the issue. “We only presented the facts and figures about the school in the report,” she said. “We do not really know what made the government think against the school,” she said.
The parents of differently abled students at the school expressed their concern. If the school was closed down, we would suffer the most, they said. It was the frightening prospect of having to cross the hectic Malaparamba bypass road everyday to reach the next UP School at Civil Station, two km away, that awaited them. “More than that, not all schools are willing to accommodate our children. Here, my son was having a smooth run. I do not know what I am going to do now,” says Ramesh Bal, father of Goutham Bal, an autistic student in class III at the school.
Residents of the area said the real estate interests of the management was behind the hasty decision. “It is sad that he (the manager) is measuring the worth of a school in financial terms,” says O.M. Sivasankaran, a resident and former vice-president of the PTA. “He should have at least thought that it was our polling booth for the last several decades,” Mr. Sivasankaran said.
School manager P.K. Padmarajan said there was nothing unlawful about the decision. “The school had not been viable for a long time now and it was to go for the road to get wider,” he said.
Malathi, 65, who had been preparing the midday meal at the school for the last 30 years, was completely broken. The management was not ready provide her any subsistence allowance. “It (the school) meant more than my home to me, I do not know where I will go now,” Ms. Malathi said, turning away her welled-up eyes.