Kannada-medium government schools in rural areas are facing low enrollment of primary school children. There are eight such kids in the village but their parents would rather they go to nearby private schools. But the government is keeping its word of not closing schools, even if there's only one student. And that's exactly what's happening in the lower primary school at Jedi Kuni village near Araga in Thirthahalli taluk which has classes up to the fifth standard. Since June this year, it's had one teacher and one child.
The school, which was opened some years ago, has a spacious playground, classrooms, toilet and drinking water besides a lot of greenery around it.
Surashya, the daughter of local priest Ramesh Shastry, is a Class 1 student of Jaya Kumar who travels daily from Thirthahalli to the village 15km away. Jaya Kumar, who has been teacher at this school for the past seven years, is from Tiptur and is an MA in Kannada and has done the TCH course.
The village, whose population was well over 100 earlier when the school was set up, has dipped to 60 and comprises labourers and a few rich areca garden owners. There's no public transport to the village and one has to walk 3km to reach the main road or use private vehicles on the mud roads.
According to Jaya Kumar, there were five children in 2013-14. Two students in Class 5 passed out. Two others in classes 2 and 3 were their siblings and their parents put them in a private school. That left only Surashya. She refused to go to another school despite her parents' pleas. Her father Shastry said, "I need to be away on work and it's difficult for me to take my daughter daily to a school away from the village."
B S Yellappa, member of the zilla panchayat representing the area, said efforts to admit the child to a school 3.5km away failed. "We're trying our best to save the school. It's difficult to convince rich parents not to admit their children to private schools," he said.
N Krishnamurthy, block education officer of the taluk, said: "We have been discussing the problem of low enrollment in some government schools with teachers and school betterment committees. We're trying our best to increase enrollment in schools with less than 10 children."
Kimmane Ratnakar, minister for primary and secondary education who is from Thirthahalli, said many stalwarts from the district studied in government schools and there's a need to the change the mindset of parents. He said the government is trying its best to provide all facilities and impart training to teachers to improve quality of teaching in schools. He said the government is committed to improving government schools and not to close them.