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A pioneer in residential education

By A. Saye Sekhar

VIJAYAWADA, DEC.23. Residential education in the public sector for the poor is the contribution of the late Prime Minister, P.V.Narasimha Rao. Drawing cue from the concept of "gurukulams" in the epic stories of ancient India, Narasimha Rao conceived the idea of setting up residential schools in Andhra Pradesh. Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas in the country were also the brainchild of Rao.

Rao, soon after becoming the Chief Minister of the State, had set up a residential school for boys at Sarvail near Samsthan Narayanpur in Nalgonda district in November, 1971. The school was mainly intended at providing quality education for the rural talented children, who could not afford it by going to towns or cities.

He brought about a piece of legislation in 1972 forming the Andhra Pradesh Residential Educational Institutions (APREI) Society and had it registered under the Societies Act. This is an autonomous body with State funding. With the advent of the APREI Society, the State Government added a couple of new schools -- one at Kodigenahalli in Anantapur district and another at Tadikonda in Guntur district -- the same year. With the result, all the three regions in the State -- coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and Telangana -- had one school each.

Rao wanted the Society to draw up curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities in a manner that would ensure all-round development of children.

With Rao's concept proving to be a runaway hit, the State Government gradually increased the number of schools, including an exclusive school for tribal students across the State at the Kinnerasani dam site in Khammam district, a residential junior college at Nagarjunasagar and, subsequently, an exclusive residential school for girls in Vikarabad in Ranga Reddy district.

N.T. Rama Rao, who was impressed by the system, had set up two schools each -- one for boys and another for girls -- in all the 23 districts in the State under the aegis of APREI Society and also created an exclusive society for scheduled caste students under the social welfare department during his chief ministership. And, presently over one lakh students are pursuing their education in almost 300-odd State-run residential schools.

When Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India, he created a ministry for human resource development and allocated the portfolio to Narasimha Rao. When the Union Government came up with New Education Policy in 1986, Narasimha Rao introduced his concept of residential education in the public sector across the country in the form of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas.

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