A school rebuilt in 72 hours: Keralites once again show exemplary community work

Written by Najiya O, TwoCircles.net | Published on: September 8, 2018
 

When the deadly monsoon wreaked havoc in Kerala, it didn’t spare even the schools where little kids come to take their first steps in formal education. The Government Lower Primary (GLP) School at Kurichyarmala in Vythiri in Wayanad district was one such school to suffer heavily during the floods. But the school rose from the calamity like a phoenix, setting a new example of community feeling and social responsibility.

Wayanad had to face the wrath of nature even before the rest of Kerala began to face them. In the landslide of August 13, mud, rocks and other wastes covered nearly half the GLP school at Kurichyarmala. 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. Such circumstances made it nearly impossible to run the school.

The first helping hand for the school came from the Muslim Mahall Committee of the area. When the school authorities approached them, the committee offered to give the hall above its madrasa building for the school.  The committee met officially and handed over a document to the school authorities allowing to run the school in its building; only 10 minutes were reportedly needed for the committee to take the decision. 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. If they lost this school, there was no government school nearby for the nearly 100 young kids studying in pre-school to class 4.  The school authorities went to the Collectorate to discuss the matter, from where they met a group of young men willing to help, who 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.
When the local people and teachers were determined to bring back the school, others also came in. The young men from the voluntary organisations like the Green Palliative, the Human Beings Collective and the Malabar Flood Rehabilitation Forum decided to stand with the initiative of the teachers and the local people.  Schools were to reopen on August 29 after the Onam vacations.  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 helped financially. A sum of Rs 3.5 lakh was spent on 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 colourful pictures. They also set up the play area for the little kids with toy horses, see-saw, ball pool etc.  While the men were busy with the work of the school, food for the volunteers was cooked and served by the women in nearby houses.

“We offered our support, and they 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.  Actually, the main works were carried out in three days, ie a building was decorated and transformed into a school within a mere 72 hours,” Sashi PK, the headmaster of the GLP School, Kurichayarmala, told TwoCircles.net on phone.
 

 
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.

CK Saseendran, MLA, inaugurated the re-opening function and promised to give Rs 1.5 crore to the school from his MLA fund.  District Collector Keshavendra Kumar, sub-Collector Umesh, DDE K Prabhakaran, parents, Mahall authorities and local people were present at the function.
 

 
There were motivational sessions and entertainment programmes for the students who had witnessed the fury of nature, many of who had been in relief camps for days and had suffered losses.  In fact, there were 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, architects etc in the team, and thus we could finish the works in time.”  The bank account of the Green Palliative was used to raise funds for the initiative.

Another school at Makkimala, around 55 km from Kurichyarmala near Mananthavady, also faced similar situations of having lost the school building to a landslide. The school didn’t get a fitness certificate as there were cracks in the building itself, and so it couldn’t be opened on August 29. Inspired by the act of the madrassa and Mahall Committee at Kurichyarmala, the Mahall Committee at Makkimala also offered their building for the school there. 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 after the rebuilding and three days of motivational classes, 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. And this time the local people of Kurichyarmala did it all with the support of the people at Makkimala, without any help from the volunteering team from outside. “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.
 

 
Setting a new example of community service and social responsibility, the Kurichyarmala GLP school has entered its special name in the records related to the rebuilding of Kerala after the calamity of 2018. The old building of the school cannot be used, and the area also is inaccessible.  So the school needs a new building which, the headmaster informed that the TATA group has promised. It needs a suitable piece of land now, which also will be acquired with the joint efforts of the school and local people, as is evident from the unmatched activities that have been accomplished now.


 
Courtesy: Two Circles