First in His Family to be Educated, This School Leader Curbs Youth Conflicts and Sets a Progressive Institution

First in His Family to be Educated, This School Leader Curbs Youth Conflicts and Sets a Progressive Institution

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Gautham English Public School, Chamarajanagar, Karnataka

Ravindra S, Gautham English Public School, Chamarajanagar, Karnataka

Imagine a small town where young people were constantly embroiled in fights and conflicts. In the midst of this chaos, a school teacher, Ravindra S, saw a bigger purpose. He decided to take on the responsibility of educating the youth, introducing them to a world beyond the strife. With dedication and passion, he opened doors to new possibilities, inspiring them to dream of a brighter future.

Background

Ravindra was born into a modest farmer’s family in the heart of Hanur Taluk, located within the Chamarajanagar district. He was the youngest of three siblings. His father, despite his own lack of formal education, had a deep desire for his children to receive at least basic schooling. However, the local mindset was quite different from his aspirations. Many believed that any school, be it private or government-run, would serve the same purpose. Ravindra says, “In our village, people believed that any school would do the job.”

Ravindra began his educational journey at a government school, just like his elder brothers. Among them, he was the only one to pass the SSLC board exams, which made his parents very proud. But this accomplishment presented a dilemma: what next? With no clear direction or goals, the family felt lost.

Ravindra’s dream was to study science after the 10th grade, but there were no science colleges nearby. His father, too, wished for him to stay close to home. Reluctantly, Ravindra chose to major in Arts.

His village school, however, hadn’t provided a strong foundation, particularly in English. As he says, “I felt as though I missed out on a lot of learning because my school wasn’t well equipped.”

Relocating to Mysore for teacher training, he realized the gaps in his own education. He lamented, “I wanted to learn more, but my school had left me unprepared for the challenges.”

Driven by a desire to make a change, Ravindra started tutoring students in two hostels in his village and later became the headmaster of Priyadarshini School. Yet, a lingering sense of unfulfillment persisted. He pondered, “Why not establish my own school in my village?” This spark of an idea paved the way for the inception of Gautham English Medium School.

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How the school started 

A significant driving force for Ravindra was his desire to counteract the rising tide of rowdyism and communal clashes in his community. He firmly believed that education and awareness of the law could serve as a powerful deterrent against such conflicts. Before he started his school, the youths of the area were frequently involved in communal disturbances. They seemed to have lost their way, he observed. This lack of direction not only manifested in their actions but also academically, with students struggling to clear the PUC levels. As a result, many ended up as unskilled laborers. Ravindra understood that education was the only key for the villagers.

He founded the school in 2010 with two primary goals in mind: to raise awareness in his community while challenging the traditional belief that education was not a priority. As students received their education and found themselves in better positions, they became less inclined to get involved in trivial disputes. The realization that their hard-earned education was a treasure, and any misstep could jeopardize their future, kept them grounded. Consequently, communal disturbances soon became a thing of the past in his village.

Alongside imparting quality education, Ravindra also organized workshops for the local youth, emphasizing their roles and responsibilities in society. This holistic approach led to a transformation, turning his students into gentler and more responsible individuals.

For Ravindra, his venture into education was not financially motivated. His wife is gainfully employed as a government school teacher, and they owned land for farming. His primary mission was to serve the underprivileged and to instigate a positive shift in the mindset of rural communities.

Milestones and Varthana’s support

When Ravindra started his school, he set a small fee of Rs. 500, but only four students joined. He had to run the whole school with this little money, paying teachers, staff, and covering basic needs. “It was a challenging year,” Ravindra recalls. However, by 2015, the tide began to turn as students from government schools started transferring to his institution. Ravindra, with the help of donors, decided to retain these students by providing fresh milk and mid-day meals like they had received at their previous schools. This led to a surge in admissions and elevated the school’s reputation.

But as more students came, challenges came too. There weren’t enough donors to pay for everything. That’s when Varthana stepped in, offering financial help and supporting the completion of the school’s construction. Varthana’s support was crucial in making the school better, Ravindra notes. “They were truly a lifeline for us.”

Impact of the pandemic and a way forward

In the years leading up to the pandemic, Gautham English Medium School was thriving, with 750 students eagerly learning within its walls. But then, over the next two years, 300 students left the school, opting for a life in more remote areas because their families could no longer afford education. Additionally, the school saw no new admissions. Ravindra described these years as a step backward.

However, the school leader decided to take matters into his own hands and connect with every household in the community. He distributed pamphlets and a message of affordable education with enhanced facilities, aiming to bring more students to the school.

He was acutely aware that many villages around the Malai Mahadeshwara hills lacked access to quality education. Ravindra was determined to reach out to these underserved students, offering them not just an education but also the opportunity to stay in the school’s hostels. His commitment extended to sending school buses to every corner of the nearby villages to ensure that no child was left behind. He explains, “We needed to spread the word about our affordable education.”

He further welcomed parents who approached him, unable to afford the fees but desiring an education for their children, and admitted their kids free of cost. Ravindra also took on the responsibility of those kids who lost their parents in the pandemic, charging no fees until they completed their schooling. As he puts it, “We wanted to support these children during the hard times.”

Today, Ravindra’s school achieved a 100% pass rate, topping the taluk. Beyond this, graduates from Gautham English Medium School secured the top three ranks in 1st PUC at Kollegal College, outperforming peers from pricier CBSE schools.

Also Read: No child left behind: This school leader goes extra mile to support struggling students in Jalandhar

Vision

Ravindra’s actions show how deeply he cares for his students and their families. He staunchly believes that neither age nor grade limits a student’s potential to learn. “Intelligence isn’t just about grades; it depends on a student’s interest and those ‘aha’ moments. Learning can happen at any time, for anyone.”

Listening to Ravindra’s stories of kindness and hard work, one cannot help but be moved and inspired. He stands as more than just a teacher; he is a role model for the young people in his village. He teaches us that one person’s dedication and caring can make a huge difference in a troubled community.

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