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In the year 1995, everyone in the town of Pazhayannur, Thrissur district, Kerala, had known that the Government Higher Secondary School was going to shut soon. The villagers had gossiped about it. The ex-students had mocked it. And the teachers had dreaded the inevitable axe to fall.
And why shouldn’t it, had wondered many? The school had hit an all-time low when its Secondary Level School Certificate (SSLC) Examination pass percentile had dropped to 20 that year. Additionally, the number of students had steadily dwindled, most opting to go to the CBSE and ICSE schools nearby.
What the naysayers had not anticipated was the determination of one teacher.
V Radhakrishnan, hailing from the town of Mavelikara, Alapuzha had just been posted at the school as a history teacher. It was his first job. And as fate would have it, the school was breathing its last.
Undaunted, the dedicated teacher decided to change things. Along with other teachers of the school, he set up a reformation program to help the existing few learners, bringing in a new dawn for the school.
From raising awareness among parents on the importance of education to providing free after-school coaching to each student, Radhakrishan and his team collectively brought a fourfold jump in the SSLC pass percentage to 80!
Today, the school is an alma mater to many students who have gone on to become IAAS officer’s who fondly remember the exemplary work of their teachers.
Breathing New Life in the School
“I had just completed my B.Ed from Peet Memorial Training College, Alapuzha, and this was my first posting. Honestly, I was terrified at the results of the school and wanted to get a transfer immediately back to my hometown. Then the senior teachers of the school came and spoke to me, and we decided to kickstart a reformation program,” 59-year-old Radhakrishnan tells The Better India.
The biggest challenge they faced was the students’ way of thinking. Most came from families that were primarily involved in farming and were actively participating in farming activities.
“They had grown up seeing their parents earning an income without education and didn’t realise its importance. This was an added problem that we faced as teachers,” he reminisces.
But once the program gained momentum, the people from the village also started helping the teachers out. Emboldened by the awareness programs that the teachers had run, the parents made sure that their children gave ample time to their studies at home and maintained regular attendance.
Furthermore, the teachers began after-school remedial classes free of cost to ensure individual attention to students who needed it the most.
“As part of the program, I was also given the duty of the library, which I loved. I ensured that each student picked up a book from the library atleast once a week and completed it. This may seem like a small step, but it helped out in the long run and instilled an interest in reading among the students,” shares Radhakrishnan who had been preparing for PSC himself and knew the power of extensive reading.
The Success Stories
One of the students who had studied at the school at that time was Dr P Sarin, Indian Audit & Accounts Service (IAAS) batch 2009 and former Deputy Accountant General of Kerala and Karnataka.
TBI got in touch with Dr Sarin to talk to him about his old school and his teachers. “Even after graduating from school, Radhakrishnan sir was always there to keep motivating me to do bigger things. He’s one of the major reasons why I went on to pursue civil services, despite completing my MBBS,” he says.
“Sarin was in our science batch. After graduating with high marks, he cleared the All Kerala Medical Entrance Examination and secured admission at the Kozhikode Medical College. He then went on to clear the Civil Services Examination,” says Radhakrishnan proudly.
“Although I had wished for a transfer initially, I’m glad for the 11 years at that school and then it was time to return home to Mavelikara,” says Radhakrishnan.
With his deep interest in keeping abreast in current affairs and widening his general knowledge, Radhakrishnan has prepared unique quizzes for leading academic publications in Kerala like ‘Labour India’. His technique became so popular that the radio channels in the region began inviting him for quiz shows. Besides teaching, he has also written Indian history-based features for Malayala Manorama’s Yearbook.
Additionally, the multitalented teacher has written 24 history books in Malayalam, his favourite being ‘Njan Kaalam’ (I’m Kalaam) based on the life of APJ Abdul Kalam, released in 2014.
“If there’s anything I’ve achieved today, it’s because of the blessings of my students. Being a teacher has brought so much perspective to my life and has given me the ability to bring out the maximum potential of each child I have come across,” concludes Radhakrishnan who has retired from his service and is now giving PSC coaching classes in his village.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)