This Kerala school festival is no child’s play

Live telecast,judges under surveillance,film directors ready with contracts — it’s getting bigger by the day

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Published: January 23, 2012 3:11:17 am

Nearly 8,000 contestants participating in 208 events; a makeshift kitchen and dining hall serving four meals daily to nearly 10,000 people for six days; a battery of TV channels live telecasting the event; intelligence sleuths keeping a tab on the jurists; and film directors flitting in and out of the venues scouting for fresh faces for their upcoming ventures. Billed as the biggest jamboree of its kind in Asia,the Kerala School Youth Festival is a unique event.

After a weeklong cultural treat spread across 17 venues in Thrissur town,the 52nd edition of the festival came concluded on Sunday.

While 7,190 students from senior schools were supposed to contest,759 others joined the fray through special appeals that made the education department richer by Rs 37 lakh. “Students coming with appeals at the last minute have derailed the schedule. We will introduce strict guidelines from next year to bring down the number of appeals,’’ said Education Minister P K Abdurub.

Due to widespread allegations earlier that some jury members were bribed by rich parents to rig the results,the government this time asked the Intelligence cell of the police to put the judges under surveillance. Subsequently,two jurists who dined with a contestant were removed from the panel.

The festival begins at school level and moves to the state-level. Until a few years ago,the winners were given special prizes bu the practice was scrapped to bring down unhealthy competition among schools and parents.

The dance items have over the years become a domain of children from rich families only who can afford costly costumes and accessories. This festival,however,had participants like Sathyan and Surya — wards of farm workers. While Sathyan was helped by his friends,Surya raised money by staging performances for tourists.

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