By O Najiya
Vythiri: A new example of community feeling and social responsibility was set in Kerala’s Wayanad district when local people joined young volunteers from all over the state and rebuilt a government school in three days.
The Government Lower Primary School at Kurichyarmala in Vythiri, was damaged in a landslide on August 13, even before floods hit the rest of Kerala.
The landslide covered the school with mud, rocks and other wastes. Roads and bridges leading to the school were washed away, and a big crack was formed in the ground making it impossible to access the area. It became nearly impossible to run the school.
The first helping hand for the school came from the Muslim Mahall Committee of the area.
The school authorities approached the committee and its members took only 10 minutes to decide the matter. The committee offered to give a hall above its madrasa building for the school. The committee met officially and handed over a document to the school authorities allowing them to run the school in its building.
The document was submitted to the district education authorities and permission received. The school was temporarily shifted to the madrassa. Soon after, schools were given holidays all over the state due to the incessant rains with landslides and floods.
But the people of Kurichyarmala were not ready to give up. The school was the only government educational institution for nearly 100 children studying in pre-school to grade four.
To discuss the matter, the school authorities went to the collectorate where they met a group of young men willing to help. The youth were focusing on the rebuilding of schools destroyed in the natural calamity. They visited the area, saw the destroyed school and the madrassa building arranged to resume the classes temporarily.
Other also came to help. Young men from voluntary organizations such as the Green Palliative, the Human Beings Collective and the Malabar Flood Rehabilitation Forum decided to support the teachers and the local people.
Schools were to reopen on August 29 after the Onam vacation. And it was already August 25. They announced in all the media possible about the condition of the school and the mission to rebuild, inviting volunteers and contributions.
Around 50 volunteers from Kasargode to Ernakulam turned up to rebuild the school.
Students from the Aligarh Muslim University donated learning equipment. Toys came from the students of the Pondicherry University. Those from the Jawaharlal Nehru University sent 350,000 rupees to rebuild the school. The library was sponsored by the Kerala School Teachers Association.
The new school was built on top of the madrassa building in 72 hours. The volunteers served day and night to carry bricks and cement, to paint and decorate, to set everything right.
There was no wall on one part of the building. They built the wall of more than 70-feet length in one and half hours. The walls were decorated with paintings and colorful pictures. They also set up the play area for the little kids with toy horses, see-saw and, ball pool. While the men were busy with the work of the school, women cooked food in nearby houses and severed the volunteers.
“Actually, the main works were carried out in three days, a building was decorated and transformed into a school within a mere 72 hours,” P K Sashi, the headmaster, told TwoCircles.net on phone.
He also said the school authorities offered their support and the youth took up the project.
“However, the most important thing is that the youth of this place joined them, including the parents and local people. The reason for the success goes to the formation of a good collective here,” Sashi added.
The school needed everything from chalks and blackboards to benches and desks, tables and chairs, shelves, toilets, kitchen to cook food, projector, other equipment etc. The school now has a pre-primary classroom, four classrooms for the students of classes 1 to 4, a staff room and a room for the headmaster. The new school reopened along with all other schools on August 29, but with a difference – a grand function was held to mark the reopening.
C K Saseendran, a legislator, inaugurated the re-opening function and promised to give 15 million rupees to the school from his MLA fund. District Collector Keshavendra Kumar was among those present at the function.
There were motivational sessions and entertainment programs for the students who had witnessed the fury of nature. Many of them had been in relief camps for days and had suffered losses. So, the school conducted only motivational classes for three days.
“This is an initiative of the local people,” said Anees Nadodi, art director in the film industry and volunteer of the Green Palliative, to TwoCircles.net on phone.
“We only helped them. The parents of the students carried out the electrical, plumbing, carpentry, masonry and welding works, under the leadership of the headmaster and the president of the Parent Teacher Association. Our involvement was only providing creative support to the community initiative of the people of Kurichyarmala. We had interior designers, artists and architects in the team, and thus we could finish the works in time.”
The Kurichyarmala people also lent their help to another school at Makkimala near Mananthavady, around 55 km away where landslide destroyed a school. The school could not start on August 29 since it did not get a fitness certificate as its building developed cracks.
Inspired by the act of their counterparts in Kurichyarmala, the Mahall Committee at Makkimala offered their building for the school. The mosque was on the ground floor and the school could function on the first floor.
On September 1, when the volunteering team at Kurichyarmala was about to return, the imam of the mosque urged the local people in his Friday sermon to move to Makkimala and rebuild the school there. Accordingly, the experienced local people went to Makkkimala and rebuilt the school there in two days, and the school was reopened on September 4.
This time the people of Kurichyarmala and Makkimala completed the task, without outside help. “We rebuilt the school at Makkimala in cooperation with the local people there, and now we are ready to undertake such works anywhere,” said Aslam, president of the PTA at Kurichyarmala school.