Unbelievable Story of a Woman Running a School with 450 Children

Unbelievable Story of a Woman Running a School with 450 Children

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BM Shree Vidyanikethan

Veena M, B M Shree Vidyanikethan, Mysore

Veena M. was born into a middle-class family in a small village near Kanakapura, on the outskirts of Bengaluru. As a young girl, she had a dream of becoming a teacher someday and worked tirelessly to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree. Her life took a turn in the same direction when she got married and moved to Mysore with her husband. She felt that now was the time to pursue her passion and use her skills. She began taking tuition classes for the neighbourhood children and soon received an offer to work as a teacher in a nearby school. Overjoyed, she accepted the offer, hoping to make a positive impact on her students’ lives.

Veena dedicated herself to her work, balancing her teaching duties with her household chores. She taught at the school for twelve years, without taking a single break, and was happy and content, until one day, she wasn’t. “Due to a misunderstanding with the school management, I had to quit the institution,” reminisces the now school leader.

After the incident, Veena was uncertain about how to proceed with her professional life. She started babysitting in 2004, hoping to earn some income and keep herself busy.

But she soon realized how much she missed teaching and the impact she could have on children’s lives. She decided to start her own school, with a vision of providing quality and affordable education to the children of Mysore.

Today, Veena single handedly manages B M Shree Vidyanikethan in Mysore, with a student strength of 450 children, catering to the locality and beyond. She is the sole promoter and manager of the school, overseeing everything from teaching to administration. She has kept the school fees modest, averaging between Rs.7,000 – Rs.8,000 per year, ensuring that quality education is accessible to all.

Achievements

With great excitement, Veena shares her story saying, “Back in February 2004, I began babysitting four children, and within a few days, the number extended to 12-13 children. I took on the role of both teacher and caretaker. By June of that same year, I had 82 students and I segregated them by age. I also recruited a teacher and domestic help to assist me.”

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“Last year, my students participated in a quiz competition with 18 schools, including some high-end institutions, and we were thrilled to take first place despite being a small institution,” Veena proudly declares.

She further adds, “Many of my former students have secured merit seats in well-established colleges, with most opting for science. This brings me great joy. It’s heartening to see students who come back to thank me for the quality education they received.”

Veena also notes that parents in the community are pleased with the school, and it feels like a home to them. “We have earned their respect,” she states adding, “They are even requesting that we start offering pre-university courses. However, that’s currently beyond our reach.”

“People in the community appreciate me because I never force them to pay fees,” the visionary school leader explains. “Even if they can only pay Rs.500 or Rs.1000, I always provide them a receipt. During parent-teacher meetings, I take the initiative to explain the challenges we face as a school if fees are not paid, such as paying salaries to teachers and maintaining the school’s infrastructure. I’m happy to say that parents have been cooperative and understanding.”

Overall, Veena’s dedication and hard work have paid off, as her small school has had a significant impact on the community, providing quality education and a nurturing environment to children.

Also Read: How Zeal School is improving English proficiency in rural students

Everything is a Challenge

Veena encountered various challenges while obtaining the necessary licenses to start her school after leaving her previous employment. “As a woman and sole owner, I had to reach out to people and travel to and fro from offices to get permission, and finally I opened grade 1.”

However, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her school faced a new challenge as the number of students drastically reduced from 60 to just 4. Nevertheless, Veena persevered and completed her B.Ed and MA through distance learning. As a result, her school now offers classes up to the 10th standard, with the 7th batch of students from class 10th passing with flying colors.

Obtaining permission for the 6th and 7th grades was challenging for Veena, and it was even more difficult for classes 9th and 10th. “I had sleepless nights.” However, she eventually got the permission and remained confident in her abilities and the future of her school, despite not yet owning a house.

“I converted the house I was living in into a school and I am living in a small space in the same building. I still do not own a house,” she shares with a hint of disappointment in her voice.

Veena personifies the phrase ‘Hard work and commitment pay off’.

Veena’s school is situated in a locality where both parents have to work to make ends meet, so the fees are set accordingly. “We have fixed the fees as per their affordability. During COVID-19, our strength went down to 330 students since parents couldn’t afford to pay fees and started shifting their children to government schools,” she says. However, she is confident that the student strength will increase next year. “Online classes did not work during COVID since both parents had to work, and they were not confident about giving their own mobile phones to their children.”

Strategies to amplify enrollment 

Veena has taken the initiative to discuss with the teachers ways to increase enrollment and simultaneously increase the salaries of teachers. During the discussions, teachers expressed that parents tend to focus on the infrastructure such as the building and play materials, rather than the content that they provide to the students, especially for LKG and UKG. She is also planning to invest in the infrastructure, given that they have a separate building for Montessori education.

How is her school better than others?

“We may not have a fancy playground or a massive building, but what we do have is the highest quality education,” says Veena with pride. “This is the reason our reputation has grown, and we attract students from all over Mysore.”

“I never compromise when it comes to our teachers,” she continues. “Our staff is composed of highly qualified educators who are incredibly cooperative. The school takes the initiative to organize monthly quizzes to ensure students gain additional knowledge, and I make sure to reward the students accordingly.” Although the teachers provide many ideas to improve the school, financial constraints limit the implementation of some of these suggestions.

Bridging the learning gap

“No special initiative has been taken, but I have informed the teachers to teach the basics first, and then proceed to the lesson. I have also emphasized that while completing the syllabus is important, it is even more important to ensure that students absorb what is being taught.”

Varthana relationship

“It’s been nearly 15 years since we have been with Varthana. We kept renewing our loan whenever the previous one was settled. Our relationship has been good, and we have not had any problems.” However, during COVID-19, their student enrollment dropped, and the school had taken out other loans and purchased a school van one month prior to COVID-19. Paying monthly EMIs did become difficult but now they are past the difficult phase.

From a victim of circumstances to a champion educator, this is how Veena became a renowned educator in the locality. She still aspires to reach higher levels of success.

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