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A government girls school in Kerala, patronised mostly by students from poor families seeking free education, has established excellent standards and become the envy of other institutions in the state, thanks to an unlikely group of benefactors — a CPM MLA, a Dubai-based NRI businessman, IIM-Kozhikode, ISRO and Infosys.
From the days of weather-beaten buildings and less than a dozen toilets for 2,300 girls, the Government Vocational Higher Secondary School in Nadakkavu in Kozhikode has seen its student strength rise and is aiming to become one of the 10 best schools in the country while several government schools in Kerala have either closed down or been categorised unviable after students preferred private institutions.
The transformation has its roots in a programme called Promote Regional Schools to International Standards through Multiple Intervention (PRISM) launched by Kozhikode’s CPM MLA Pradeep Kumar.
“Since I became a legislator in 2006, parents in my constituency were seeking my recommendation for their children’s admission in leading private schools in the city. This forced me to think about improving facilities at government schools, which have the best teachers recruited on merit basis. If IIMs and IITs are the best in their categories, why can’t a government school excel,’’ Kumar said.
While the MLA has given the school Rs 5.5 crore from his local area development fund since 2008, Dubai-based businessman K E Faizal, through his Faizal and Shabana Foundation, has donated Rs 15 crore to modernise infrastructure.
Together, the funds helped develop state-of-the-art school buildings - including a new block built under the guidance of Scottish architect William Cooper - an indoor stadium with three basketball courts, hockey ground with astro turf, football and badminton courts, a dining hall with 2,000 seating capacity, atrium, gymnasium, heritage zone, science lab and a library with 25,000 books.
The PRISM concept was shared with Prof Saji Gopinath of IIM-Kozhikode, who roped in a social service group of the institute to prepare a project report. Subsequently, the state education department recognised PRISM as a model project for the overall development of government schools.
ISRO was approached for support when Madhavan Nair was its chairman. It constructed four science labs which are on par with any college. Infosys pitched in with 150 computers.
The academic and infrastructure developments have attracted more students, with student strength jumping to 2,300 from 1,800 from classes 5 to 12 this academic year.
“Ninety-five per cent students hail from the most backward families