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In class without benches and fans, kids use art to raise funds

This story by me was published by leading Bangalore daily, Bangalore Mirror, on Sep 15, 2015. Before that, it was published in the IIJNM publication The Observer, on Sep 8, 2015.

A group of 11-year-old government school students is selling their artwork in exhibitions to raise money for their classroom. The money that they earn will be used to buy basic necessities such as floor mats, stationery and shoes.

The project was started by their teacher, Naina Urs, last month. “The school gets `32,000 per year from the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), but that is not enough,” said Vijayakumari R, principal of Government Higher Primary School, Medahalli, near Whitefield where Urs teaches. “It is possible to use funds raised by the kids to improve infrastructure.”

Paintings prepared by the students

Paintings prepared by the students

The students held their first art exhibition under the project called ‘Citizens of Tomorrow’ at 10 Downing Club House (club house of Urs apartment). The students were able to raise Rs 2,000.

The students spent two classes for making the paintings. Sudeep, 10, a student of Class 4, said, “We had to learn a lot. Things like what to say, how to talk to people, how to explain our project to them and convincing them to buy the paintings.”

The classroom that Urs teaches in has no benches or fans. “There are just two bulbs for the entire class, and students get just one set of uniform from the school,” she said. Several children do not wear shoes to school. “The school has no drinking water or fans,” said Vijayakumari. “We do not have enough funds to buy teaching aids or carpets for students to sit on. There is no other way to get more funds yet.”

There are 259 higher primary schools (classes 1 to 8) and 238 lower primary schools (classes 1 to 5) in the state, according to KL Rameshaiah, deputy project coordinator for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in Bangalore North. Funding from the SSA depends on the number of rooms and type of school.

“Each school up to Class 8 which has five or more classrooms gets Rs.20,000 as school grant, and Rs.12,000 as maintenance grant,” said Rameshaiah. “This is the same all over the state. If a school wants more, there are currently no provisions for it.”

“Chalkboxes cost Rs.650 a month and each room needs one broomstick per month, which costs around Rs.100,” said Yashoda BK, principal of the Government Kannada English Medium Primary School, KP Agrahara. “We would need etter teaching aids and projector. For better maintenance, we need at least `1 lakh per year,” she said.

The students treat Citizens of Tomorrow as a “company”, and Urs has also been giving them lessons in business so that they get exposed to student leadership.

“I wanted to expose the students to more and more people,” she said. “At the exhibition, a visitor offered to teach kids money management and another volunteered for career counselling. The ones who went for the exhibition are also putting in more effort learning English now, after seeing people talk in English.”

The mother of a student in the class, who does not want to be named, said the pressing problem in the school is water facility. She said that due to this, kids were not eating well and drinking enough water.

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