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INITIATIVE

Built on the courage of dreams

A school started by bank employees? Radhika Kanavi visits IBEA high school, near Pattukottai in Tamil Nadu, born of the passion and commitment of the employees of a nationalised bank.


It is a distinctly different view, a dream that has fructified, thanks to the tireless efforts of the bank staff.



Nurturing growing minds: At the IBEA school

A pricking social conscience; the need for PR; the not so subtle nudge from the RBI for Corporate Social Responsibility- have all led to many initiatives to improve the situation of rural communities or the urban poor, by large banks.

Such schemes are generally well funded and well managed and true to form they do get their 15 minutes in the sun and a regular paragraph in the Chairman's annual speech to the share holders.

So what is special about a school being run by some bank employees? Well one finds that it is different only on checking the “ground truth”—a term used by space scientists to distinguish between a satellite image of a place and the reality on the ground.

It is a distinctly different view, a dream that has fructified, thanks to the tireless efforts of the functionaries of the trade union of Indian bank. It was the vision of an organisation, whose members were bogged in tight necked day- to -day banking operations – real cousins of Shakespeare's Cassio, engaged in fighting the Government attacks on the employees and fighting battles with the police, to start a school where it was so pressingly needed but the system could not offer due to obvious reasons.

Initiatives

The IBEA High School situated in Kuruchi village, a calm and serene hamlet on the roadside, at a distance of about seven km from Pattukottai, Tamil Nadu is the brain child of some passionate Indian Bank employees. Mr K Krishnan President of Indian Bank Employees Association (TN) took the lead along with the other employees and started this project to educate underprivileged children in 2002. It was a brave thing to do and being activists in the IBEA they certainly did not lack the organisational skills.

Quickly an IBEA educational trust was set up in 2000 and fund raising started. The trust was able to purchase about five acres of land in the village and start the construction of a couple of buildings with small but well-ventilated classrooms.

This Tamil medium school has quickly chalked out a reputation for itself as a ‘good school' in the region. Students of the school have achieved a 100 per cent passing at the SSLC exams during the last three years. The very first year (2006), one student had failed, however he is now making quiet progress in his career as a worker at Hyundai factory near Chennai.

As part of its efforts to kindle a scientific interest in their immediate environment among school children, the Department of Science and Technology conducts the National Children's Science Congress the first phase of which is held at the district level, and then the State level.

At the State level 1200 projects are in stiff competition and only 30 are selected for the national award. The hallmark of the achievement of this school is that the children of IBEA High School received the young scientist award 2005-06, from President Abdul Kalam and subsequently in the following year, they were conferred the young scientists award on a project titled, “a study on Pannavayal Lake”.

Students of the school were ecstatic again when they secured the first prize in the quiz competition held at the state level by the Tamil Nadu science forum in 2008.

All round development

The school follows an Activity Based Learning System and pays serious attention to non-academic skills of the children as well. A library containing a large number of books donated by Indian Bank employees and other well wishers is the pride of teachers and students alike.

Mr Dhanabal of Indian Bank who has taken the immediate responsibility to mentor the school, points out that what makes it all worthwhile is the fact that the students came from 25 hamlets and most of them belonged to families of small farmers or landless labourers from the backward and scheduled castes.

Even for a relatively well off bank employees' union, it has not been smooth sailing. As in all worthwhile projects the journey has been full of struggle, requiring persistence, doggedness and sacrifice. Not only was the land acquired with great difficulty, but also not a single child came forward from the villages, when the admissions were in progress for the Std. VI, in 2002, as the word had got around that the school did not have recognition by the State Government.

Mr Dhanabal removed his son from a school of repute and admitted him in IBEA High School to prove the point to the villagers that this mission would succeed.

Even after the news about the boy's admission went around, it took 15 days for the second student to join, and for that entire academic year they had a great student teacher ratio, as there were only two students in Std. VI!

In the nineties, with millions (if not billions) made in the digital revolution, Silicon Valley companies came up with a new buzzword—giving back to society. It has crept into Indian IT industry as well.

The school at Kuruchi, however, is fuelled by ordinary bank employees with their hearts in the right place, stretching out of one's comfort zone and working with loads of gumption and hard work.

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