A headmaster of a corporation school in Madurai has revived a century old school that was heading towards closure due to lack of students. His novel initiatives included painting the school with various themes, community awareness and keeping the students and parents posted about school activities through the internet.
The Middle School at Singarathope near Meenakshi temple was constructed in 1919 during British rule. Till 1983, the school boasted a strength of 1,200 students. But as private schools opened and the quality of education in government schools suffered due to negligence, enrollment reduced. As the school strength dwindled, the school’s infrastructure was used by other corporation schools in the vicinity.
When headmaster Joseph Jayaseelan took charge in 2019, the total strength of the middle school was 30. Among these students, 12 were differently abled and they didn’t come to school. The school was functioning with 18 students and two teachers.
Realizing that the school had no future if the numbers dwindled further, Jayaseelan decided to revive the school. He conducted Pongal festivities in a grand manner that year. The neighbourhood was surprised when this low-visibility school started celebrating festivals. Jayaseelan started issuing pamphlets about school activities among the people in the locality.
When headmaster Joseph Jayaseelan took charge in 2019, the total strength of the middle school was 30. Among these students, 12 were differently abled and they didn’t come to school.
He decided to give a makeover to the school and sought the help of artist Raja from the city. He painted the school like train compartments. The initiative turned out to be popular. Parents started taking note of the school initiative. The school strength improved from 30 to 80 next year.
As the numbers grew, he requested the Corporation authorities to provide them more space. The second floor occupied by the neighbouring school was vacated. The artist was called again and he painted spacecraft and airplanes on school walls. Jayaseelan has spent Rs 45,000 in which the local people donated Rs 10,000.
Jayaseelan tried improving the school curriculum with more activity based learning. Teaching turned more practical. Students were encouraged to raise vegetables in the school garden. The vegetables harvested were cooked and served in their midday meals. Two huge pans were prepared for planting paddy for experiment. He taught students how seedbeds were prepared, and transplantation, weeding and harvesting done during paddy cultivation.
Students were asked to prepare news reports by collecting ten interesting news items from the newspapers. A library was set up in the school. Students were taught silambam and life skills. A Facebook page and blog were created for the school. School premises were brought under CCTV surveillance. With the help of Saravanan, former Madurai South MLA, a drinking water plant was set up.
The school strength has improved from 80 to 180 this year. The headmaster ensures that each student’s birthday is celebrated in school. Cakes are cut and sweets are distributed to make the students feel special. Jayaseelan says the local people gave full support. They readily donated and supported the school extension activities, he said.