A new academic year and a new look to go with it - The Hindu

2022-06-19 00:48:30 By : Mr. Yong Wu

At Chennai High School, Irsuappa Street, Triplicane. | Photo Credit: SRINIVASAN KV

Last week, when students of Corporation High School at Irusappa Street in Triplicane walked into the school campus for the first time, they must have been in awe seeing the changes around them. The shabby old structure that greeted them all these years made way for a new and pleasant space.

If one were to go by the literature shared by Erode-based Aatral Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that made its foray into the city by renovating the school, then work has gone into almost every aspect of keeping this five-decades-old structure safe, friendly and inviting. This includes arresting leakages, fixing new doors for the toilets, creating a dining area for having mid-day meals, taking up fabrication work on the main gate, creating a volleyball court, installing a roof at the kitchen shed, removing piles of debris that have accumulated on the campus and renovating the stage and giving the classrooms a fresh coat of paint.

The school is undergoing repairs and renovation after 10 years, the new look will have a remarkable effect on how students learn and teachers teach.

A clutch of Corporation-run schools are getting a facelift this academic year, many initiated by NGOs and donors and some with Government funding.

At the local body-run school at Vannia Teynampet, the 100-year-old building and its surroundings are being refurbished under the ‘Singara Chennai 2.0’ project. Currently, students have staggered timings when they attend classes to facilitate the work that is expected to be over by mid-July.

Similarly, Bengaluru-based Bal Utsav entered Chennai with its first project at Government Model Higher Secondary School in Saidapet. Through its flagship programme, iShaala, the NGO is bringing interventions in infrastructure, teacher development, WaSH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) initiatives and scholarships for students.

If external appearance is a key factor in drawing new students to an institution then many of these schools have crossed the first level. Teaching and learning initiatives should follow.

Besides, sustained and thorough maintenance is the only way to ensuring that such makeovers can last over long periods of time. So, what can be done? Revathy K, headmistress, Chennai High School Teynampet, says students are the real custodians of the school and a sense of ownership should be developed in them.

“Pre-pandemic, we had committees for infrastructure, discipline, agriculture and health. We are going to revive them so that children take up responsibility and develop a sense of belonging,” says Revathy.

She cites an example: “We have a small area where children play but that often leads to damage to the pipes and taps. Whenever some damage happens, students pool in money and ensure the repairs are fixed,” says Revathy.

A Ashok Kumar, chairman, Aatral Foundation, says the school management committee comprising parents, ward members, parent-teacher association members, old students, elected representatives and the management must be empowered. (The renovated school was handed over to the administration in the presence of Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi, wife of Udhayanidhi Stalin, MLA of the Chepauk constituency)

Ramesh Balasundaram, co-founder and director of Bal Utsav, says they handhold a school for three to five years and bridge its gaps. One of its key focus areas: working with the community to sustain initiatives.

“The community starts participating in the exercise from the time we decide what interventions are needed. Simple elements such as this: if we bring a water filter, the community takes ownership of crowdsourcing bricks and cement. If we give them a smart television, they take the responsibility of getting a UPS arranged for the school,” says Ramesh, adding that the community even helps in increasing enrolments.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2022 10:22:45 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-new-academic-year-and-a-new-look-to-go-with-it/article65536126.ece