Headmaster transforms school during COVID-19 lockdown
Stays back at workplace to execute plans that he had been nurturing for several years
The unending chirping of birds greets visitors at the government lower primary school in Ambedkar Nagar in Nidagundi in Belagavi district, Karnataka. Sparrows have built their nests in the plastic pipes put up by the school to welcome the birds.
A man in a T-shirt and shorts, who is working with carpenters, gets up and greets visitors.
He is Veeranna Madiwalar, the headmaster of the school. He is from Gadag district. He stayed back in the village during the COVID-19 lockdown and has been working to develop the school. He has used the extended lockdown to crowd-fund development of his school.
He and his friends have raised over ₹18.75 lakh. The money came from well-wishers and philanthropists, following appeals on social media and through word-of-mouth. He and his team of students and parents have taken up several projects. The most important one was to double the size of the school premises.
The school was built on a 10-gunta plot in a predominantly Dalit neighbourhood. Mr. Madiwalar decided to buy another patch of 10 guntas. The premises now has a full-fledged language laboratory, named in honour of writer Shivaram Karanth.
Mr. Madiwalar, a Kendra Sahitya Akademi young poet award winner, wants to set up a full-fledged library, an online data base and a multi-media projector to help children learn multiple languages.
“We have facilities to install around 20 computers. We have sent out requests to friends and well-wishers to donate new or used computers. Some people have promised help,” he says.
The old school building has been cleaned up and repainted. The walls have paintings depicting landscape, birds, flowers, fruits and animals, apart from illustrations based on subjects in textbooks.
Most of them were painted by Mr. Madiwalar. “I have not only painted the walls, but also the windows, doors and grills,” he says.
The school floor has been covered with tiles. The school ground has been levelled and made fit for children to play. The power supply was erratic due to outdated equipment and wiring. All this was changed. Now, the school has new lights and ceiling fans.
Mr. Madiwalar had plans to develop the school for many years, but they began taking share only after discussions with some friends and donors.
“I met Ram Mohan Rao, a Bengaluru-based IT entrepreneur at a Neenasam theatre workshop in Heggodu in 2020. He listened to my plans and offered to help. He donated around ₹15 lakh. Then I requested P. Rajeev, MLA, to help us. He donated around ₹2.6 lakh from his personal funds. Some officers of the Education Department also donated money.
“We managed to raise some funds through appeals on social media. Some friends of friends pitched in. We also got help from strangers,” he says.
“With the funds we raised, we not only bought some land, but also built the language laboratory,” he said. The land was bought in the name of the government of Karnataka.
He had observed that house sparrows, which are rarely seen in villages and towns, had built nests in the holes on walls and trees in the school premises. He put up some PVC pipes with holes for the sparrows to build nests.
“In a few days, the sparrows and some other birds, began residing in our school. Now, we have increased the number of pipes. Our children are now growing up in the proverbial lap of nature. Our aim is not just to teach them to read and write. We should make sure that they don’t miss the simple joys of childhood. Coming to school should be joyful experience to them,” he says.
“Most teachers have found the lockdown boring. Some left the place of their posting and returned to their home towns. But Mr. Madiwalar has shown that productive work is possible even in difficult circumstances. He is a role model for public school teachers,” says D.S. Chougale, writer and theatre personality.