Norwegian couple out to give life to `ailing' school

BANGALORE NOV. 7. Two teachers from Norway are here on a mission. They will give a facelift to Binny High School at Binnypet, which is in a shambles after blazing a glorious trail in the 1960s and 1970s.

This aided school, managed by Binny Mills and its employees' association, saw the end of its good days when the mills began facing a financial crunch in the late 1980s. Till then, it was one of Bangalore's best managed schools. In 1968, the then President, Zakir Hussain, paid a visit to the school.

Things changed for the worse in 1990s, and despite Government aid, the mills management could not grant funds towards school maintenance. The school was opened about a century ago to give education to children of mill employees. However, reduction in the mills staff affected the student strength which declined from 400 in the early 1990s to 145 in 2002.

Classes are held in dingy classrooms without proper furniture. Most of the students belong to poor families living in nearby slums. Their parents are mainly daily wage earners. Despite the hardships they are facing and the shortcomings in school, the students are eager to learn.

A Norwegian couple, Kiersti Haugtro and Harald Sverresson, primary schoolteachers in their country, decided to contribute their mite to improve the infrastructure and quality in the school. "We decided to extend our service to a noble cause," Mr. Kiersti Haugtro says. A long-term plan had been chalked out to improve the school condition with the help of the school head mistress, B.P. Nanjamma, and Bernadette, who runs an NGO called Ariyu in Bangalore, he said.

The Binny High School needs immediate attention. There have been no repairs to the building for the past 15 years. Many of the classrooms are in a dilapidated state. The roof leaks every time it rains.

"We too would like to sit on good benches like those in big schools," say the students.

The main priority is to repair the doors and windows, and to have educational tools such as blackboards, benches, tables, sports items, and music instruments, say the Norwegian couple. They have already got painted four classrooms and cemented floors with their own money. The couple with the help of students have drawn paintings on classroom walls. The paintings tell stories from the panchatantra and tales of Norway. The classrooms should look attractive so that students feel like attending classes regularly, say the couple.

"Our objective is to motivate teachers to teach in a better way. Drawing and paintings on the walls of the classrooms help teaches to explain topics easily. Students are intelligent and they have good drawing skills and ideas," Ms. Harald Sverresson said.

They conducted theatre and art workshops in the school and taught students the basics of drawing, painting, and dance. They plan to visit houses of students who have dropped out to bring them back to school.

There are seven teachers in the school. "The staff is enough, but the school needs basic facilities," Ms. Nanjamma points out. The teachers bring chalk, laboratory tools, and maps by spending from their own pockets. The school management does not have money to give free textbooks and notebooks to poor children. The students do not even pay the annual tuition fees, she said.

With the aid of the Norwegian couple, the head mistress is now encouraging the staff and school management to approach people and voluntary organisations for donations to improve the school. Repairs to the building and provision of basic educational tools are urgently required to attract more students to the school.

Those who are interested to donate funds to the school can contact either Ms. B.P.Nanjamma (080) 6617087 or Ms. Bernadette (080) 6506425.

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