School on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border nurtures its 73 wards despite scores of elephant attacks (India)


Dhinesh Kallungal, The New Indian Express

Date Published

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MALAKKAPPARA: The Government UP School here was knocked down by wild elephants at least two dozen times in the past. Yet, it has survived the test of time imparting lessons to the wards of migrant labourers.

Given the circumstances under which it functions, the institution has excelled in academics. To think Kerala had almost discarded the school! Located on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in Thrissur and sitting on a picturesque hill surrounded by tea plantations overlooking a town, the school has only 73 students on its roll. Of these, only five belong to Malayali parents. As many as 35 students are from Jharkhand and the rest – whose parents work in nearby tea estates and companies – are from TN.

This year, headmistress Rosa C R told ‘Express’, eight students have joined the school from Jharkhand. “The parents of six more Jharkhand students assured us they will send their wards to the school. Besides, 12 Jharkhand students who went for summer vacation are yet to return. Normally, they return by the first or second week of June along with their parents,” she said.

Despite the odds, the teaching community – having overcome many difficulties to pursue their careers at the hilltop school – is determined to take on the challenges that lie ahead. There are only four permanent teachers and a headmistress, apart from two office staff. Among the teachers, only the headmistress teaches Malayalam.

The others teach in Tamil medium, except for a Hindi teacher. Though virtual classroom is part of the academic curriculum, it remains a distant dream for these students as none of the computers installed as part of the project are operational. However, this doesn’t clip their academic wings.

Though students from various states pursue education here, the teaching medium is mainly Tamil.Another significant feature is the students get proficiency in at least three languages apart from English. The only issue that haunts the authorities is the presence of wild animals. Maybe, it is the only school in the state attacked by herds of wild elephants every year.

A couple of months ago, a parent was trampled to death by an elephant in the nearest tea estate. According to forest officers, the school is situated along an elephant corridor in the Parambikulam reserve forest. Education Minister C Raveendranath said bringing children of the migrant people into the mainstream is the responsibility of the state Education Department.