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The Panchayat Middle School

No one really knows the origins to this school. How and when it came to be. Someone's idea took wing and the first school block was a tiled, mud-walled structure no larger than a badminton court. That was way back in 1969. The villagers credit this largesse to a Good Samaritan whose name none can recollect. The school stands on land that belongs to the village temple. Evidence that somewhere there is the hand of God.

In 1986 when the State Government finally woke up it seemed as though zillion years had gone by. Their initiative resulted in the second school block coming up much to everyone's delight. In 1996, the then local MLA diverted some funds (after much persuasion, claim the villagers) under the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and the third school building was erected.

The DPEP is a Central Government initiative launched in 1994. It finances 85% of the project cost and the State Government chips in with the rest. The programme is "conceived as a beachhead for overhauling the primary education system in India." So says a report and goes on to identify some of its core objectives as "to provide all children with access to primary education either in the formal system or through the non-formal education (NFE) programme; to reduce overall primary dropout rates for all students to less than 10%."

If that's what the programme is supposed to do, then somewhere down the line the brakes got applied. Many Government programmes are at work but the reach falls short, for there's lot more that needs to be done.

From 12 surrounding villages, 350 boys and girls tromp the tar-topped roads bare-foot, in their government provided uniforms (just one set per child that invariably shrink after the first wash) and often walking miles to reach school. The government-aided staff consists of a Head Master (referred to as 'HM') and three lady teachers. The nerve center of activity, the local Parent-Teacher Association sponsors three other teachers. Between themselves, they handle Class One to Class Eight and in some cases a teacher has to manage two classes simultaneously. Examinations are held in the open, under trees and in classroom corridors. Only one classroom boasts of benches. Other children are forced to squat on the floor, whatever be the weather. Playground or play facilities of any sorts are glaringly absent and there's no electricity, though the power lines have been provided. The school is unable to afford the mandatory deposit required to install an electric meter and the government is adamant.

It won't waive off the fee. "Rules", they say.

Back to School
Country Road, Take Me Home...
The Panchayat Middle School
So near and yet, so very far
No Money, Honey
As dreams fade away...
Wannabe Doctor
The "Teacher's Colony"
Give us this day our daily bread...
The "Tuck Shop"
Murugan "The Messiah"
A Stitch in Time
Band of Brothers
MGR Nutritious Meal Scheme
Help us if you can
The Magic called "Moses"
Imagine All those People
The "School Needs" List

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