The 119-year-old Government Upper Primary School at Muttar has several peculiarities, and on Wednesday, its 80-odd students just added another to that list.

The students, ranging from those studying in Class One to Class Seven, are now proud paddy farmers who can claim first-hand knowledge of almost all the nuances of paddy cultivation. Along with their parents and teachers led by headmistress Sujatha M.S., the students decided last year to turn a 20-cent fallow land adjacent to the school into cultivable land.

“The land was all covered with bushes and heavily inhabited by snakes for the last several years. But the students, with help from the Parents Teachers Association, cleared it up and sowed seeds four months back. Today, they are proud farmers of a good yield, which they are harvesting with the help of a few labourers and a combine harvester machine,” Sumish V. Antony, one of the teachers, said.

The school, one of the first schools in the district, has a peculiar geography. While the land just across the lake that flows by the school falls in Kottayam district, the school is from Alappuzha and the land a few metres west of the school belongs to Pathanamthitta district. The school, which has unfortunately seen the number of its students dwindling, from 1,000 a few years back to 80 now, has students from all three districts.

“Most of the students here are from poor families. Though we have no 100 per cent pass performances to boast about, the students are good enough and have been winning prizes in district-level science, mathematics fests. We hope that through initiatives like paddy farming, we can make their learning experience here much more fruitful,” Ms. Sujatha said.

On Wednesday, the children stepped out onto the paddy field along with their teachers after District Panchayat president R. Nazar inaugurated the harvest festival. After an hour’s hard work, they rested for a while and allowed the harvester machine to take over.

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