Located about 40 km from the City in Guttahalli village is Anjana Vidya Kendra, a school started in 2000 to provide education to children, who are otherwise sent to work in silk factories or forced into child marriage.
And the residents of about 12 villages, who send their children to the school, have the option to volunteer in any capacity in the school for a day if they choose against paying the monthly fee. Even though the monthly fee is equivalent to one day’s labour, which is about Rs. 400, that covers not only tuition fee, school books and uniform, some parents prefer to work. About 20 per cent of the parents prefer to work, said Channa Raju, founder of the school. The parents are given an option to volunteer as it is an effort to encourage the family’s participation and investment in the child’s education and to ensure students continue to study.
The first thing that strikes you as you enter the school is the peaceful ambience. Run by a few committed individuals for the uplift of rural children, it is set up on 1.5 acres of land. The school, for students from LKG to Class X, resembles a small cluster of an aesthetically designed movie set of a village.
Handwritten signboards, an amphitheatre built out of small boulders and mud from the field, an stage that displays Warli art, a floor that has been freshly cured by cow-dung and the little slide next to the staircase that leads to the library are indicators of the unique thought process that went into planning this school environment. The adjoining 2.5 acres of land also belongs to the school and is used to grow vegetables for the children’s consumption. The school also maintains a dairy comprising two cows.
Mr. Channa, a scientist with the National Aerospace Laboratories in Bangalore who set up the school with just Rs. 50,000, was aware that schooling was not easily accessible and not of high priority to the rural community. “I am the youngest of 12 children and my parents sent me to school only because my meal was taken care of by the school,” said the 53-year-old. Hailing from Arehalli village on the outskirts of Bangalore, Mr. Channa is the first from his family to attend school.
Two batches of students, numbering a total of 80, have completed their schooling from Anjana Vidhya Kendra so far. The co-educational English-medium school, recognised by the State government, has a strength of about 300 students today. “This school is my way of giving back to society whatever I have received. The primary motive to set up the school was for the benefit of girl children who are either married very young or sent off to work in factories, Mr. Channa said.
Priyanka, a class 9 student, said she and her classmates are confident of etching out a life for themselves and not staying confined to their homes.
Four of farmer K.R. Lakshman’s children study at the school. Despite there being a number of schools in Kallakunte Agrahara where he resides, he sends his children to Mr. Channa’s school as he believes that quality education is provided to rural children here.
“Also, the students are taught to stay connected to their roots (agriculture),” he said.