On January 20, Sub-Inspector K Srinivas of Addakal Police Station enrolled his three-year-old daughter in the government primary school in Katavaram village in Mahbubnagar district. Although an expensive private pre-school was located just two kilometers away in Addakal, Srinivas chose the government-run school as he had led the efforts to transform it from a dilapidated building into something the kids and villagers are now proud of. In the last six months, the school’s strength swelled from 32 to 87 students as villagers pulled their kids out of the nearby private schools and re-enrolled them here.
The school’s transformation from a half-constructed, dilapidated building into a fully equipped institution was the result of Mahbubnagar Police’s efforts to reach out to the community through its collaborative policing policy. Superintendent of Police Rema Rajeshwari, who oversees the programme, inaugurated the building on March 11.
In June 2015, two months after SI Srinivas was posted to Addakal Police Station, during a meeting with villagers of Katavaram, he was horrified to hear the school Head Mistress Dhana Lakshmi describe the daily ordeal of students at the village’s government primary school. “The Mahila Mandal office, Anganwadi, school, cattle shelter, pigsty were all in the same building. It was smelling and horrible and the kids should not be going there. The village’s sewage also flowed into the building premises. Kids had started quitting the school and were being sent by their parents to Addakal or Mahbubnagar. I and the Addankal Police Station team decided to do something about it,” Srinivas says.
A few years ago, construction of the new school building began 400 metres from the existing building but as funds dried up, it was abandoned midway.
“The job was cut out for us,” recalls SI Srinivas. “There were other problems that needed attention in the adopted village but we thought that making the school building usable should be top priority. Withing 10-15 days we started work. Fortunately for us, two villagers owning JCB machines volunteered and four villagers brought in their tractors. We pooled money and paid for diesel and we went to work. The boulders and weeds were cleared, and the police team and villagers gave shram dhaan and we completed construction of the three rooms that were left half way. We also completed the compound wall and gave it a coat of paint. Electricity connections were provided on an emergency basis after the police put a request,” Srinivas said. Few of the volunteers who were involved in the project included those who were caught drunk driving.
Although the headmistress and the two teachers shifted the school to the new premises last October, a lot was still needed to be done. “The approach road was not proper and there was no drinking water and toilets. There was no water in the nearby bore well. Again it was the Addakal police station which swung into action and worked tirelessly to provide these facilities,” head mistress K Dhanalakshmi says, adding that after seeing photos of the school being rebuilt on Facebook, a Hyderabad-based NGO offered help in construction of toilets.
Despite being occupied with security arrangement for the Godavari Pushkars, K Balaraj, Head Constable, says they leveled the 150 metres road to the school and black-topped it with the help of villagers and panchayat. “We were discussing how drinking water could be provided to the school when the farmer having a field with a borewell on the school’s backside said he will switch on his bore well for the school if a pipeline is laid from the bore to the school. One villager donated the pipes and we laid it immediately and installed a plastic overhead water tank. Two toilets were also constructed and the water connections were given with help from Caring Hands NGO,” he says.
The police, villagers, and NGO teams also planted 250 saplings in the school. The kids started returning once the spanking new school opened its gates. “When we moved here we had just 32 kids. Now we are up to 87. About 30 village children studying in private schools nearby have also joined in the last few months. We were voted as the best school among the Addakal’s 150-odd government schools recently. Next year we plan to increase strength to 120 students,’’ she said. About 15 kids from the SC colony in the neighbouring village, who had stopped coming to the school, have enrolled again recently.
In the meanwhile, Caring Hands, an NGO, contacted SI Srinivas and offered to provide a couple of computers for the kids but the kids first needed some sports activity. A play area was created with swings, merry go rounds and sports kits were provided. Caring Hands also helped complete construction of three more rooms of the school and painted them. “In one room they have set up two computers and they have deputed a volunteer who teaches basics to the kids,” Headmistress Dhanalakshmi said. Three months ago the school won the “Swacha Pathashala” award.