Downtown

A school finds justice

Retired Judge Chandru. Photo: R. Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

You must serve idiyappam with jaggery syrup; that will make it tastier and healthier,” says K. Chandru to the caterer who has sought the former judge’s “verdict” on the tiffin that had been served to students at Savitri Ammal Oriental Higher Secondary School in Mylapore. These students were staying back for extra classes.

Later, he takes us around the campus and he knows every nook and cranny of the institution.

Well, if that’s what you are thinking, Chandru is not an alumnus of the school.

The retired Judge of Madras High Court took over as president of the school management committee. That happened as recently as June and he did not waste any time in studying and understanding this 58-year-old institution run by V Krishnaswamy Iyer Sanskrit Education Trust.

He is already spearheading various initiatives to increase enrolment numbers at this government-aided school.

“I am from Ramakrishna Math Mission School, T.Nagar,” he says, adding, “After retirement I received many offers to work with institutions, but I was keen on doing something in my neighbourhood.”

As the school’s enrolment rate was dipping alarmingly, it was a huge challenge Chandru was taking up.

“In 2002, the school had 1,000 students. Now, the numbers have dwindled to nearly half of it — 550,” says Chandru. He has all the statistics, at his finger tips.

While Class VI in the English section has 68 students, in the Tamil section, it is in single digit. In higher secondary classes, there are less than 20 students in the mathematics stream.

Chandru’s first major initiative was to take up door-to-door campaign at various slums in Mylapore to increase enrolment at the school. “But, I got my first shock. Teachers who were supposed to join me in the drive backed out,” he says.

With the help of a few residents’ welfare associations, the senior advocate campaigned at colonies in Visalakshipuram and Vivekanandapuram.

“We would have covered close to 20,000 houses where we distributed pamphlets about the school,” Chandru says. They also placed advertisements in Tamil newspapers.

His next task was to revamp the school. It conducted a grand reopening day where Chandru wrote letters inviting them to the school. A career guidance programme was conducted for students who passed out. Many after-school initiatives were introduced. Ranjini Vardhan, faculty at Ethiraj College for Women, and V. Santhanam were roped in to conduct spoken English and accountancy classes respectively.

To create an interest in science, the school has joined hands with Tamil Nadu Science Forum. With Samskriya Foundation, it has started a reading hour.

Every Friday, a self-confidence session is held for higher secondary school students where a well-known personality is invited. IAS officer Irai Anbu, actors Parthipan and Siva Kumar and entrepreneur Nalli Kuppuswamy were some of those who have given a pep talk.

“Getting maximum centums or all-pass is not our goal. We want to enhance the confidence levels of the students,” says Chandru, showing us a diary where he has put down a line-up of speakers.

Next, the management is planning to develop a basketball court and start a children’s choir group at the school. Chandru, who is facing resistance from a section of teachers, hopes he can make a noticeable difference before his three-year term gets over. Apart from reviving the school, Chandru volunteers with a SC Welfare Hostel in Mylapore. “I am also a volunteer at Ramakrishna Mission’s dispensary,” he says.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 3:36:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/A-school-finds-justice/article14488614.ece

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