Around 300 students from 10 schools attended an annual Makkala Grama Sabha (children’s village sabha) at Gopahalli in Karnataka’s Ramangara district on Thursday and interacted with zilla panchayat chief executive officer Digvijay Bodke on a host of issues related to government schools.
According to education officials, students demanded good-quality infrastructure such as classrooms, toilets, playgrounds and digital libraries in government schools. Students also reported the extent of devastation caused by the monsoon and requested the authorities’ help to rebuild their houses and to repair the partially submerged schools.
This was the first time that the zilla panchayat CEO had participated in the annual meet, which is an initiative of the rural development and panchayat raj department to encourage students’ participation in school-related developments and discussions.
An education official who was present at the meeting said, “The meeting had representatives from the health, transportation, women and child development and other departments. They noted the series of the problems faced by government school students of Gopahalli. The authorities promised to refer the problems to the respective departments and government bodies for appropriate action.”
With the schools in the Gopahalli panchayat also facing a shortage of teachers, the students demanded teachers for computer science and English. According to the officials, the panchayat has two single-teacher schools and two schools also have been closed down for want of teachers.
The students of higher primary schools also drew the attention of the transport authorities to the unavailability of bus services after school hours. Some said that bus timings were not in sync with school timings.
The students also complained that some playgrounds were being misused at night by anti-social elements who throw alcohol bottles and other waste on school premises.
The Gopahalli meeting was backed by the Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness, a 22-year-old non-profit that provides children with learning experiences that instil the values of active citizenship.
Bodke, the Ramanagara CEO, said, “We are planning to use the diversified government funds to improve the infrastructure of schools on priority and use Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme funds for developing playgrounds. I will also direct the superintendent of police to deploy more beat officers to take action against miscreants who spoil the hygiene of school premises. We have also teamed up with NGOs and are roping in corporates to create model anganwadis that focuses more on experience-based learning in the district.”
By January, more than 20,000 children will participate in Makkala Grama Sabhas in the Tumakuru, Ramanagara and Chikmagalur districts to voice their concerns about life in schools and villages.