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Residential schools should regain past glory

Residential schools should  regain past glory
Highlights

Residential Schools Should Regain Past Glory, School and College Education in Our State. My association with school and college education in our State has crossed half a century and at times it is surprising to see history take a full circle.

My association with school and college education in our State has crossed half a century and at times it is surprising to see history take a full circle. Our State government has launched the AP Model schools which are English medium schools intended to provide free and quality education to children from educationally backward districts and that the schools are modeled on the Kendriya Vidyalayas! This reminds me of my association with PV Narasimha Rao, going back to our school days in Warangal where he was my senior by quite a few years. The world knows him as a man of extraordinary intelligence, a shrewd politician, economist, visionary, a polyglot, and a man of few words but pioneering deeds who could steer our nation out of many dire straits.

I knew PV as a man who was very humble in acknowledging that he had many intelligent competitors even in his school, those who could have proved worthier if fate had not destined them to drop out of schooling for material reasons. This idea was so strongly embedded in him that when he became our Education Minister in the 1970s, he lost no time to use his power and policymaking authority to launch the residential schools in rural areas. It was his dream come true, and I am among the lucky teachers of those days to see what wonders quality education can do in the least expected circles too. Among the oldest in the state, the residential schools in Kodigena Halli, Sarvail and Tadikonda were once the pride of AP .When a philanthropist in Sarvail was ready to donate land for a junior college, PV motivated him to do the same for a residential school convincing him that a college was of little use when there are no good students from high schools.
What use is an IIT or an REC institution in a rural set-up if the potential of the locals is not encouraged so that they may benefit from higher centers of learning? A building is only as strong as its foundation and any education is only as strong as what the foundation is in its primary and secondary levels.
It was a challenging and highly rewarding venture where qualified , experienced and committed teachers were identified and deputed with encouraging salaries; good infrastructure and housing facilities were provided; there was time to time monitoring by educational experts ,social audit by university faculty, provision for holistic development through well-furnished libraries , sports and physical exercise were all taken care of from the start . No wonder that these AP residential schools revolutionized society’s outlook, breathed a new life into the concepts of equity, equality and progress for all.
All the top SSC ranks which were till then going to the Little Flower school in the city, were easily secured by the ‘Gurukula’ schools in Sarvail, KodigenaHalli and Tadikonda, thereby encouraging the government to extend the plan to have even the Junior College …AP Residential, in Nagarjuna Sagar The Navodaya Schools, residential schools financed by the Central government, are the next step which P V took when he moved to the Central ministry. So, to read now that our AP Model Schools are modeled on the Kendriya Vidyalayas makes me nostalgic indeed! To note that the first three residential schools in AP have now been given the tag of ‘excellence’ makes me recall some of the positive features of the residential schools of the 1970s, why we need to revive them, what changes in the focus of our learning methodology would make these new ventures more successful, etc.
What is it that a residential school does which an ordinary school may not? It has a greater scope for molding and nurturing the holistic personality, for quality interaction between students and teachers either one to one or in small groups, for motivating learners more through their personality and behavior, to encourage them to explore academic subject and content beyond the examination pattern …The barriers of status and hierarchy are removed when the feeling of the team comes to the fore, when both teachers and students have a common mess where they take turns to serve their fellow students and faculty .
Regional integration gets inbuilt with 42% from Andhra region, 36% from Telangana and the rest from Rayalaseema region studying in one school. For emphasis on national integration , the Migration Scheme in Navodayas wherein students from North India come to study in the South and vice versa, offers a rare experience to understand the different habits and customs from close quarters and develop a feeling of cultural integrity , ability to accommodate and respect others’ feelings , which is a highly desirable trait in the global village today. These schools are not just a home away from home, they are expected to be better homes, with caring mentors, good nutrition, proper infrastructure facilities, health care and many other things which the students may not have access to at their original homes. Only then is the first bond of trust established and then the process of learning begins. I remember a student asking me why I never asked him how the ’sambar’ tasted on any day while I always asked how the classes went. It’s true, the children want good food, some simple talk and chances to vent out their feelings apart from ‘all academics’.
Now, the pioneering Residential schools as well as the Social welfare schools have much to be desired. The housing facility is gone, the buildings allocated initially for teachers have crumbled and now these Residential schools are no more than ordinary schools. Though the State government is doing its best to provide quality diet, a comparison with the funds allotted towards the dietary needs of children in Navodayas shows that students in our State-run schools are truly underprivileged. When the Centre spends Rs. 1200 on every student right from class 6, surely the quality will be different than what we can give by spending Rs 750 only. I feel that when the amount is spent for a good cause, for social transformation, it can be a good investment and the Centre may provide funds to bring parity, for in what way is a student from Navodaya different from one in our state-run schools and deserving better facilities? Moreover, we may launch new schemes, start as many new schools on the Gurukula model as we need, but can’t we divert some funds to revive the old horses which can still serve as they once did?
Let it be our incessant effort to bridge the gap between our elementary, secondary and college education goals.
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