By Sharon ThambalaDoddanapudi (Andhra Pradesh), Jan 17 : In a distressing development for Andhra Pradesh, several Anglican schools, which did decades long yeoman service in taking free education to the most oppressed sections of the society, have shut down over the years.
Even as these schools shut down one after the other, there was gross inaction and negligence from successive governments of the day and officials who let them suffer a silent death.
Anglican schools closed down in Kalla, Doddanapudi and Yelurupadu in West Godavari district and Takkellapadu village in Krishna district, including other places whose data was not shared by the Church of South India’s (CSI) Krishna-Godavari diocese.
The four defunct schools mentioned above belong to the Krishna-Godavari diocese of CSI, which are headed by the local bishop of the diocese, Cornelius.
CSI and the Church of North India (CNI) are linked to the Anglican Church or the Church of England, which was brought to India by the Britishers some centuries ago.
In addition to establishing churches, CSI and CNI have also established several schools and colleges across the length and the breadth of the country, some of which went on to become the most famous and sought after educational institutions.
Some educational institutions linked to the Anglican church include St.Stephen’s College in Delhi, Bishop Cotton Boys and Girls Schools (Bengaluru), The Cathedral and John Connon School (Mumbai) and many others where children from the most elite families in India have obtained education and continue to do so.
A large number of serving and retired bureaucrats went to St.Stephen’s College, including the newly appointed Telangana High Court Chief Justice Hima Kohli.
However, in stark contrast, when these schools and colleges continue to thrive, their sister organisations or schools located in rural places and poor neighbourhoods in Andhra Pradesh, which served the most backward of communities, are dying.
For instance, CSI schools in Doddanapudi, Kalla, Yelurupadu and Takkellapadu functioned inside localities where scheduled caste communities live.
“These schools did not have the means or resources to have their own school buildings, so they used to make do with the church building as the school from Monday to Saturday.On Sunday, the church would function as a regular church,” T.Suguna Rao, a retired teacher who worked at CSI Yelurupadu and Doddanapudi schools, told IANS.
When one thinks of a school, one imagines separate classrooms for each class, but these schools did not enjoy any such luxury.
Students of each class were made to sit apart to resemble classrooms with no partitions in one big hall, which was the church.
Despite the deprivation of basic facilities, Dalit students living near the church-cum-schools used to attend, where they picked up the life skills of reading and writing.
A decent number of students did succeed in their education and went on to bag jobs in the government as well as private companies, altering the trajectory of their life, empowered with education.
Godi Vijayamma, a retired teacher of Yelurupadu CSI school, beamed with pride while saying that one of her students studied M.Com and is now working in the Dubai airport.
Teachers working in these schools had also exhibited exemplary dedication.In fact, Rao’s late older brother, T.Suvarna Raju, used to row a ‘dhone’ (kayak like boat), hollowed out from a palmyra tree trunk, through the Kolleru lake from Takkellapadu to remote Nandigam village in Krishna district to teach at a CSI school.
Despite their hardships, Rao reminisced how for a long time during their career, monthly salaries always used to be credited with a lag, only when the government used to sanction the budget once in two to three months.
“Falling under the category of aided schools, teachers employed in these schools used to get paid by the government’s school education department.These schools also followed the schedule given by the government,” said Rao.
Vijayamma from Doddanapudi highlighted that the connect she had with the students cannot be found in a government school.
As a teacher in the local CSI school, Vijayamma would know all the families, parents and their children, facilitated by the regular interaction between all of them, including visits to their homes.
“When students used to skip classes and go angling at the local pond, I used to go after them on my Scooty and drive them to attend school.After all, they were our children,” she said.
Vijayamma superannuated from the Yelurupadu CSI school in 2011 and the school closed down with her as no new teacher was appointed.
So did the Doddanapudi CSI school in 2007 when Rao superannuated.In similar fashion, Kalla CSI school also shut down forever post Vandanam’s retirement in 2001.
It was the same case with Takkellapadu as well, which only had a CSI school.However, the villagers complained when the lone school shut down and took up the matter with the local politicians and managed to get a government school established with four teachers.
The same method was followed by three two more neighbouring villages near Takkellapadu, Mudadalapadu and Prathipadu, all of which now salvaged their children’s school education.
Despite these success stories, the CSI schools in Doddanapudi, Kalla and Yelurupadu continue to be shut and nobody cares to revive them.
“I have advised the elders and communities from those villages to take up the matter with the local legislators to revive them but nobody came forward,” lamented Rao.
Echoing Vijayamma and Rao, G.Joseph Raju, a CBCNC (Convention of Baptist Churches Northern Circars) school teacher from Akividu, complained that almost 50 per cent of the CBCNC schools have shut down.
“CBCNC used to have 240 schools in seven districts, out of which 80-100 schools have shut down.No new teacher recruitment happened since 1998,” Raju said.
Currently working in the Akividu CBCNC school, Raju is set to superannuate in 2021 and one of his colleagues deputed to the Aibhimavaram school to save it from closure earlier will be forced to return.
With no teacher left at Aibhimavaram, that school, according to Raju, will ultimately shut down in some months.
“Instead of closing them down completely, the government can enable these aided schools to employ vidya volunteers who could be paid by the government just like how it used to pay teachers earlier.Every closed school, whether government or aided, is a loss to the nation,” he averred.
Amid these conditions, at a time when Chief Minister Y.S.Jagan Mohan Reddy is laying highest importance on education and the future generation of the state by improving infrastructure with schemes such as Nadu-Nedu, Amma Vodi and others, procuring official information on what measures the state government took to revive these aided schools proved futile.
Andhra Pradesh school education principal secretary B.Rajsekhar did not answer calls or replied to the message sent by IANS, while his deputy, school education commissioner Vadrevu Chinna Veerabhadrudu, called back and asked for more information but never got back as to what measures the government took to revive these minority aided schools.
Meanwhile, the city-based sister educational institutions continue to thrive while their poorer cousins, CSI and CBCNC schools, continue to shut down one after the other, further depriving the poor backward communities which depended on them.
(Sharon Thambala can be contacted at [email protected]