The face-lift of Kerala’s public schools

The face-lift of Kerala’s public schools

In August 2018, when the waters of the Periyar rushed into the govt Higher lyceum in Kongorpilly, it seemed as if the top was near for the 115-year-old institution on the outskirts of Kochi in Kerala. The floodwaters, said the headmistress, rose swiftly to a height of 10 ft, drowning everything, from desks and benches to books, computer systems, and staff room registers. the sole thing untouched was a projector fastened to the roof of a classroom. Days later, when the waters receded, it left behind a pale shadow of the varsity with crumbling walls and pillars and classrooms reeking of sludge.

But two years later, within the same place, stand two freshly painted, two-story buildings, complete with spacious and airy classrooms, science laboratories, and modern toilets. the varsity, home to just about 700 students, has been rebuilt from the wreckage, because of a government program aimed toward turning schools within the state into ‘centers of excellence’.

Kongorpilly school isn’t alone. On September 9, it had been among 33 such schools, which are physically transformed, inaugurated by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan through video-conferencing from Thiruvananthapuram as a part of the ‘public education rejuvenation campaign’.

Nearly a month later, on October 3, a subsequent set of 67 government schools with new academic buildings, spread across 14 districts of the state, were thrown open.
“Government schools in Kerala have undergone a serious facelift (with this program),” said Sanuja A Shamsu, the headmistress of the Kongorpilly school, sitting inside a newly built staff room.

a replacement seminar Hall at the govt. HSS in Kadayiruppu, Ernakulam district built as a part of the general public education rejuvenation mission.

“When I used to be studying during a public school within the late 80s, the facilities were very basic. Back then, it seemed as if schools were built only for the sake of providing an area to seat the youngsters. quite the standard of faculties, the main target some time past was just on educating everyone somehow. But now, (with this program), there has been a considerable upgrade to facilities at public schools, almost maintaining with private schools,” she said.

The renovation works at the varsity, which began in October 2018 within the immediate backdrop of the floods, were finished in September this year. If not for the coronavirus pandemic, students would are attending classes in their brand-new classrooms. The headmistress said the varsity now has 11 new tile-floored classrooms, one staff-room, one office room, a lab, a computer lab, a library, a kitchen, and a dining hall — facilities that weren’t available earlier.

The ‘public education rejuvenation campaign’ of the government, which was a part of the 2016 election manifesto of the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), plans to show 1,000 government schools into ‘centers of excellence’ by upgrading their physical infrastructure, improving pedagogy and adding technological weight to classrooms within the sort of projectors, laptops, and high-speed internet. In earlier regimes, the renovation of public schools was done mainly through plan funds and people of local bodies.

This time, the LDF government decided to run the campaign by largely drawing funds from Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), a vehicle that it’s routinely relied on within the last four years to mobilize funds for critical infra projects.

A newly-built classroom at the govt. Higher lyceum in Kongarapilly in Ernakulam district.

The first phase of the project involves 141 schools, one each from the 140 Assembly constituencies and one among the nominated Anglo-Indian member’s choice, to tend Rs 5 crore each. a further 96 schools are going to be allocated Rs 3 crore each for ‘betterment of infrastructure facilities.’ In January 2018, 138 schools of Rs 5 crore each category and 70 schools of Rs 3 crore each category received financial sanctions from KIIFB. So, of the 208 schools which received a financial sanction, 100 were inaugurated in September and October this year. Works within the remaining schools are likely to conclude by the top of the year.

“We faced delays thanks to natural factors like floods in consecutive years and therefore the Nipah crisis in northern Kerala in 2018. And then, the pandemic came at a really crucial stage which affected the pace of the work tons,” said Anwar Sadath, a chief military officer of Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE), the project’s implementing agency.

Since the facilities required at each school varied, said Sadath, the discussions on the size of infrastructure also happened at the grassroots level through consensus with school and PTA officials.

“It was an extended process, but it had been democratic. We had huge local participation. The ideas came from them, then we (KITE) gave knowledgeable touch thereto. The detailed project report (DPR) was prepared for every school after many discussions with stakeholders,” he said.

The direct outcome of the modernization of public schools in Kerala has been the increase in student admissions. The LDF government has claimed that almost 5.5 lakh new admissions are recorded publicly schools within the last five years despite stiff competition from private management schools mushrooming across the state.
the varsity corridor at GHSS, Kongarapilly.

In fact, at the govt Higher lyceum in Kadayiruppu within the eastern suburbs of Ernakulam district, teachers and PTA officials decide to start a spirited campaign next year to draw in students. Their elation and confidence stem from the new academic block of the varsity that was inaugurated earlier this month under a Rs 3-crore project of the ‘public education rejuvenation campaign’ of the govt .

On a recent rainy afternoon, Eldho, who teaches maths for upper-primary students at the varsity, led a tour of the new block. A single-story building, that had been constructed a couple of years ago using the local MLA funds, has been raised by two additional floors. Four classrooms, a seminar hall, three labs, and a library are accommodated on the 2 floors. There are new toilets for boys and girls complete with Kotex incinerators. A separate single-story canteen with facilities for a kitchen overlooks the varsity yard.

“Students will not need to sit in cramped-up classrooms or attend a broken toilet at the top of the varsity yard to alleviate themselves. There’s real change,” he said.
the restroom block at GHSS Kadayiruppu.

“For teachers like us earlier, we had to vacate a classroom or wait until the top of the day to carry a gathering. Now, we will easily hold meetings in any of the new rooms.”
Anil Kumar, the headmaster at the varsity, said the rejuvenation project reflects the government’s commitment to improving standards of public education. “The government is right that specializes in twin aspects of human resources – health and education. For any country to prosper, these two areas must be strengthened,” he said.

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