As many as 2,57,680 schools lack toilets – that’s 18% of all schools in India — according to the Unified District Information System data for Education. A total of 58,221 schools don’t have access to drinking water — 5% of all government schools and 1% of all private schools. And the situation in government schools is much worse — a huge number of them have no electricity, and playgrounds are hard to come by.
A number of us might have studied in one of these schools, and are doing well now. But not many go back to help their alma maters.
The alumni of Zilla Parishad High School, Yazali, in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, have set an example by joining hands and transforming the school as well as the village completely.
Yazali High School was established in 1961 and moved to the present campus in 1964, after it was upgraded into a high school from its former upper primary status.
The school had students from five villages:Yazali, Buddam, Dundepalem, Dummana Vari Palem, Boolaya Palem. However,there were times when school had only 12- 13 students appearing for the Class 10 examination.
Among these students was Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi, who was brought up in a family of 45 people living together in Yazali village.
Lakshmi’s great grandmother who lived till the age of 100 used to regale the kids with moral tales, from which they learnt to give back to society.
In 2003, when Lakshmi was in first year of engineering, another alumnus of ZP School, Naga Raju Garu, vice president of what was then known as Mahindra Satyam, initiated a movement by gathering all the former students of the school. With a crowdfunding initiative, he slowly started improving the academics and infrastructure of the school. He also spoke to parents, and cited his own example to convince them to send their children to the school.
The school started transforming soon and Lakshmi was highly inspired by what Naga Raju was doing and would take out time from his studies to help him.
Once Lakshmi finished his engineering course, he wanted to work for few years to save enough to support his dream of developing his village.
He started experimenting in many ways to develop his village while working in Hyderabad as a software engineer. However, a series of incidents that took place during 2010 shook him to the core.
One of the incidents was a gruesome accident in which a few boys from his village lost their lives. The accident happened when the boys were drunk, and all the victims were young students studying in class 12 and below.
“All this while I was thinking of coming back to my village assuming that it’s the same happy place that I had been brought up in. But everything had changed. Many families and youth were migrating to cities. Youngsters were addicted to alcohol, and farming and rearing cattle was not sustainable anymore,” Lakshmi said while speaking to TBI from Yazali.
After this, Lakshmi decided to take firm action to help his village become the same happy place again.
He gathered all his friends who had left Yazali but were committed towards its development and registered the NGO, Yazali Na-Janmbhoomi, which means Yazali, My Motherland!
The youth joined hands with Naga Raju to develop the school and today …
Developments made in the school by Yazali Na Janmbhoomi:
- A 100% pass rate of all students appearing for class 10 public exams.
- Parents prefer to admit their children in Yazali ZP High School instead of the private schools.
- The headmaster and the teachers are highly motivated and dedicate themselves to the challenge of providing quality education.
- The school has a well-equipped library (both digital and traditional), an enviable laboratory for science and mathematics and an all- weather playground.
- It has started a virtual classroom to connect expert teachers all over the world with support from the government.
- The liberal contributions of old students of the school resulted in many additional classrooms, a huge dining hall and excellent drinking water and washroom facilities.
- The school has attracted the kind attention of various bureaucrats and policymakers alike that made replication of these efforts possible elsewhere.
- Many children from the school have completed high school and successfully obtained the prized seats in International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) – a prestigious educational institution in the state.
- Personality development sessions from leading psychologists and educationalists for character building are conducted.
- Special coaching classes are conducted for students appearing for public examinations, along with providing nutritious food.
During the 2014-15 academic year, out of 75 ZP high schools, at division level, Aamani from ZPHS Yazali was the only student to secure 10/10 in board exams. She has also received the AP State Puraskar.
The school has also become a hub for sports, standing out as district champions in Kho-Kho for five years. Many students also represented the district team, and this year, four students are representing state teams in Athletics and Kho-Kho Nationals.
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The school also conducts an election for a ‘Swachch Bharat President’ and its cabinet.
This familiarizes students with their democratic rights and helps develop leadership skills. The president and ministers are responsible for keeping the school premises clean and green.
Development done by Yazali Na-Janmbhoomi in the village:
1) The Andhra Pradesh Government has recently sanctioned a lift irrigation project in Yazali village through Nallamada River, after the efforts taken by Yazali Na-Janmbhoomi. With this irrigation project, around 350 acres of land will get water for agriculture.
2) Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University has adopted the village after the NGO approached them. The university is providing awareness for village farmers on new technologies, organic farming, new techniques and ways of farming.
3) The NGO is constructing a 5,000 sq.ft.warehouse, which will give farmers a hassle-free storage facility. The warehouse will offer affordable monthly rental options for farmers.
4) The team is also providing marketing support to the farmers to get better prices by ditching middlemen.
5) With the efforts of Yazali Na-Janmbhoomi, the village now has a branch of State Bank of India, which is enabling farmers to avail government loans.
6) Water Harvesting: Villagers are encouraged to practice water harvesting to preserve ground water levels within the village.
Health and Wellness Programs in the village arranged by Yazali Na-Janmbhoomi:
1) Mega health camps are conducted in the village at least once in 3 months.
2) A Primary Health Center has been set up for the first time in the village.
3) Health Passport: The NGO is working on a unique concept called Health Passport for all villagers. As a part of this project, an online application will be developed to keep track of all medical case histories of villagers. Once operational, healthcare workers will be given access to the data.
4) RO Water Plant: Yazali Na-Janmbhoomi has constructed an RO Plant in the village. People now can buy 20 liters of water just for Rs. 4.
Through NIRD’s Rural Self Employment Training Institutes, the NGO is imparting training and skill upgradation of rural youth and women geared towards entrepreneurship development. Currently 77 Self Help Groups have been formed in Yazali.
The NGO has built a community hall, marriage hall and an old age home in the village. They have also planted over 2,500 trees in all major junctions and roadsides.The NGO plans to implement many other projects, details of which are mentioned on their website.
Lakshmi left his well-paying job as a corporate social chairperson of a prestigious software company based in Hyderabad in December 2016. He now dedicates his time completely towards the development of his village. And he still remembers his great grandmother’s stories which gave him his first life lesson –
“Whatever we have today is because of society; giving back to society is not serving. It’s our responsibility.”
If you wish to join Na-Janmbhoomi in their efforts, you can get in touch with Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi at simha.ikkurthigmail.com or on 9985426232.
For more details please log on to www.yazali.in