The Navodaya Vidyalaya Samithi has not given up its efforts to convince the Tamil Nadu Government to open Jawahar Navodaya Schools (JNV) in the State, even though their persistent attempts for the last 25 years have seen no results.

“We are optimistic that the present government will evince interest in this. The Samithi will soon approach the Chief Minister to discuss the issue. If the State agrees, the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development is ready to allot around Rs. 700 crore”, an official from the Samithi who wished to remain anonymous said.

The Central Government-funded Navodaya Vidyalaya Samithi set up its first school in Amravati, Maharashtra, in 1985. Since then, the Samithi has established nearly 600 schools across the Country, including Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep, but not in Tamil Nadu.

It has not been able to set up schools in the State because the government here has not accorded permission. With the opening of JNVs in West Bengal recently, Tamil Nadu remains the only State in the country to not have such schools whose target is to educate poor children in rural areas, says R. Mani Mohan, Joint Secretary, SBOA Matriculation School's Parents' Welfare Association.

“Tamil Nadu being a State with high incidence of rural poverty, an opportunity like this will be a boon for children from rural areas, says G. Chandramohan, President of PTA, Sri Gopal Naidu Matriculation Higher Secondary School.

Mr. Mohan says that the Tamil Nadu Government's stand on the issue is not based on sound logic. “If the State Government's argument for not permitting JNVs is that they teach Hindi, then it does not hold water because it has permitted Kendriya Vidyalayas, which in any case have Hindi as a subject.”

He adds, “Learning an additional language will not be an extra burden on students. In fact, it is good that they get to learn more languages at an early age.” The JNVs adopt a three-language formula where the students learn English, the regional language and Hindi. Hindi in JNVs is only an optional language, clarifies the official. “There is a misconception about the three-language system in JNVs. Hindi is not compulsory; it is only for students who are interested in learning the language.”

“All these years, the Samithi took efforts to convince the government, but the misunderstanding about the three language system came in the way,” he says.

The Samithi, which is an autonomous organisation, focuses on the education of children from rural areas by providing education with residential facilities. While it is free for girls, boys above class VIII will have to pay Rs. 200 a month and that too only those who are above the poverty line and do not belong to the reserved communities.

According to the Samithi, the entrance tests are designed in such a way that talented children from rural areas could compete without facing any drawbacks.

Seventy-five per cent seats are reserved for rural children and a minimum of 33 per cent for girls. Students belonging to SC/ST will get 15 per cent and 7 per cent seats respectively. “Though the seats are limited, the JNVs provide a good opportunity for talented students from rural areas, says Sunil Bihari Bharati, an English teacher at JNV in Chhattisgarh.

Advocate Saritha S.N., an almuna of JNV Kasargod, Kerala, says that seven years of training in Navodaya School has given her exposure to a lot of things which would otherwise be not possible in the remote village that she hails from.

“The curriculum is designed to encourage the holistic development of students. Training in yoga, karate, music, dance and other extracurricular activities are given equal importance.”

“The student exchange programme conducted for Standard IX students, gives them an opportunity to study for a year at a JNV in another linguistic region. This is a great facility, as it enables them to learn about the language and culture of a different region,” Saritha adds.

According to Mr. Bharati, the State has to allot 30 acres of land and temporary buildings to open schools in every district. The centre will provide the money to meet all the other expenses.