Chennai: Although there are four government-run schools located close to each other in Kannagi Nagar, it is the Panchayat Union Primary School, that has the highest enrolment rate.
On a cloudy afternoon, the campus which is located close to the Kannagi Nagar police station, is abuzz with sounds of children chattering and playing. A teacher silences them, but the effect lasts only for a short while.
Students of classes one to five study here with meagre facilities. As of now, 868 of them have been enrolled for the new academic year, even as the number is expected to hit 900.
According to Parvathy, a teacher, “There are two reasons as to why this school is preferred more than the other institutions. This is the only English-medium one and also, the teachers are good; we give the children individual attention.”
800-odd students are squeezed into just 16 classrooms, where everyone, including those who teach, are seated on the floor.
“The ones aged above 50 use chairs, while others sit down along with the students,” she said.
Due to the lack of adequate rooms, classes take place in the school’s ground, while the Principal’s cabin doubles as a computer classroom. But none of these take away the charm of this place.
“We have had many good-hearted persons come and volunteer with us. A person called Vishwanathan of Sairam Trust supplies breakfast for the little ones on working days, a retired bank staff, Chidambaram, takes spoken English classes, while another resident Lakshmipathy, takes Karate sessions. Yoga is also taught here. But all of these extra-curricular activities are done free of cost,” she said.
The credit for the Panchayat Union Primary School’s popularity, goes to Headmistress Jayabharathi, it is said. “I joined the school in the December of 2011. The strength was just 325. The following academic year, we started English medium. Soon, the enrolment rate started climbing and we got permission from the education department to introduce a separate uniform for English medium, with consent from parents. This spiked the strength,” she recalled.
“It was a struggle to ensure that students come regularly and not drop out, as sometimes they neglect classes saying that they go need to go for work, along with the rest of the family. Also, while some caretakers have been involved in crimes, others are single parents. A few other children are orphans. So in these circumstances, coming to school is a kind of awareness,” she stated.
Even as the institution has been receiving various awards, what everyone needs are classrooms.
“As of now, two classes run in the same room; which is about 80 students with two teachers at one time,” she said.