Rajshekar Patil, Netaji Higher Primary School, Vijayapura, Karnataka
Rajashekar Patil resonates with Swami Vivekananda’s philosophy: “Genuine education lies in bringing forth the latent inner strength within an individual.” He advocates for nurturing children not merely as profit-driven individuals but as pillars of society, imbued with enduring values, cultural consciousness, and a sense of responsibility towards their families and nation.
“If this is the kind of education a student receives at Netaji English Medium School, it means that the school is continuously moving forward and achieving success,” he believes. “We confidently say that among many different ways of educating students, this unique aspect is a powerful force that brings about positive changes in a student’s life,” Rajashekar adds with conviction.
The Inspirational Journey
Rajshekar has dedicated his entire career to education. He earned a Master’s degree in economics and a Bachelor’s in education from Bangalore. He started as a headmaster at the Gadag Tontadarya Institute, teaching subjects like Kannada and history. For a short time, he also worked as a Sub-Inspector after passing the civil service exams in 1996-97. But he found that role unsatisfying. He recalls, “So I returned to my true passion – shaping young minds through teaching.” Throughout his journey, Rajshekar has stayed committed to education and social service.
Rajshekar considered entering the field of education because he saw it as a meaningful way to serve society. He recognizes, “Working in education could let me give back to society.” This realization led him to initiate educational projects in Moratgi Gadag until the establishment of the Netaji Education Society in 2008-09. The journey began modestly in his village, Basavanabagevadi, Vijayapura, where he founded Netaji LPS Kannada Medium School. Subsequently, HPS Kannada Medium, and later, a high school were established.
Now, Netaji English Medium School is thriving. It offers grades from LKG to 10th standard, with separate Kannada and English mediums.
With 46 teachers and 742 students, the school continues to grow, working towards its vision. This showcases the amazing journey of Rajshekar as an education pioneer.
In the Face of Adversity
Like any school leader, Rajshekar faced big challenges. His school was situated in a rural area with no good facilities or money to support it. The problems seemed too difficult to overcome. With only 100 rupees in his pocket and a small rented room from helpful friends, he started teaching 15-20 students. “It was a time to remember,” he happily recalls.
Even though he encountered challenges in paying teachers fairly, the school leader confronted this hurdle with determination. It was the belief in his vision and the opportunity to make a positive impact that motivated teachers to join him. Eventually, their collective hard work paid off.
With pride, Rajshekar shares, “The school expanded to a 4-acre campus surrounded by nature. Equipped with a school bus and dedicated staff, the school now thrives, free from the chaos of city life. It aligns with our vision of steady growth. What more could a school ask for?”
School during the Pandemic
The COVID-19 crisis brought about significant disruptions for Rajshekar. Reflecting on this challenging period, he adds, “The school had to shut its doors and adapting to new methods of teaching and learning posed a challenge. It took time, but we handled it. However, a major issue arose as most parents couldn’t afford to pay fees, relying on farming for their livelihoods.”
The consequences were serious. He reveals, “We had to halt the expansion of the school building, and staff salaries were impacted, leaving about 15 employees dependent on fees.” To sustain the school, Rajshekar had to take an unexpected step – securing loans of 10-15 lakhs. “It was a tough decision to make,” he expresses.
His school, known for its successful operation, faced the challenge of ensuring learning continued. The leader further explains, “Another challenge was conducting online classes since not all parents had smartphones; most had basic mobile phones. Even when parents knew online learning needed smartphones, affordability was a problem.”
Serving students from around ten villages, the school realized the limitations of online classes and devised a unique solution. They formed teacher groups that traveled to these villages and provided weekly classes. Homework was given and checked, and teaching happened under trees, in temples, and even in students’ homes. He adds, “Over time, parents gradually sent their children back to school, following a well-structured plan.” The school’s location, surrounded by nature, offered a safer alternative to crowded urban areas.
Today, it seems the worst struggles are in the past, and the school is operating normally, much to the school leader’s relief.
The Impact on Students
During the extended school closures, students stayed at home without the usual structure of classes, learning, homework, and exams. For them, it felt like an extended vacation, spending long hours watching TV.
When the school finally reopened, the change in the students was beyond what anyone could have predicted.
Heavily influenced by the world of movies, their fashion sense, hairstyles, and behavior underwent a drastic transformation. This change, as noticed by the school leader, was far from positive; it was closer to chaos. The altered behavior of students, often surpassing what’s typical for their age, became a cause for concern.
As a man deeply committed to principles, values, culture, and discipline, this unconventional transformation in his students raised alarm bells. As Rajshekar remarks, “This transformation was truly unexpected.” Addressing and correcting this deviation became an immediate priority for him. He claims, “It needed immediate attention and action.”
Efforts and Achievements
The school leader was motivated to implement innovative strategies to support students’ well-being and academic growth.
Immediate actions included introducing yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and lessons on good behavior were taken. These measures played a crucial role in restoring a sense of normality and improving students’ focus and concentration. Over time, the school initiated a recognition system. Each month, three outstanding students from each grade were acknowledged and rewarded, fostering healthy competition among students.
Another essential strategy involved reinstating parent orientation and monthly workshops. Parents received guidance on various topics, such as the impact of mobile devices on students and effective parenting. Widely embraced by parents, this program resulted in noticeable improvements in students’ behavior, attitudes, and academic performance.
With the behavioral aspects addressed, the school shifted its focus to student learning. They added two extra hours of teaching each day and categorized students into different levels based on their learning needs. Level A students followed the regular curriculum, while Level B students received essential training in reading, writing, mathematics, and other foundational skills to bridge any learning gaps. Expressing pride in these efforts, Rajshekar shares, “Remarkably, these initiatives led to an impressive achievement of 90% growth and improvement.”
Presently, around 150 students are pursuing MBBS, roughly 200 are on the path to engineering degrees, and a few are attending coaching classes in Delhi with aspirations of becoming IAS and IPS officers. These accomplishments serve as evidence of the school’s successful efforts and achievements.
A Valuable Alliance with Varthana
The partnership with Varthana has been a significant aid for Netaji English Medium School. Their support played a crucial role in the school’s progress.
During a crucial phase of building construction when extra funds were needed, Varthana became a light in the darkness, as acknowledged by the school leader. To kickstart the process, the school initially secured a loan of 5 lakhs. Despite appearing small, this financial assistance was crucial in successfully completing the expected construction work.
Amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Varthana continued to provide invaluable support to the school leader. This never ending commitment has only strengthened the relationship between Netaji English Medium School and Varthana. Filled with happiness and gratitude, Rajshekar says, “We will maintain our strong partnership with Varthana as we are very pleased with the organization. We look forward to our continued success.”
Vision for the Future
The future of Netaji English Medium School involves expanding with a variety of new courses, and Rajshekar is determined to make quality education accessible to all. “We are committed to providing a wide array of courses,” he says.
One significant goal is to establish a PU board science college alongside diploma programs and even a nursing college. Rajshekar is dedicated to ensuring that middle and lower-middle-class students can access quality education without a significant financial burden.