COIMBATORE: The villagers of Konarpalayam, near Annur in Coimbatore, have found a novel way to boost enrolment in the primary school there — they are offering a one-gram gold coin, Rs 5,000 and two sets of free uniform for the first 10 children who enrol.
Their effort has paid instant dividends. “Three children have joined the school,” says Rajesh Chandrakumar Y, the headmaster. “Three more students have shown interest.”
The school, which started in 1996 with 165 students, gradually started losing sheen as residents of the largely agrarian village shifted to neighbouring places due to crop failure. By the late 1990s the student strength had fallen to just 10. As the craze for English medium schools grew, the strength further dropped to five in the past decade. “After I joined five years ago, I could manage to enrol only six students,” says Rajesh. With the population falling to just 65 families, there was nothing much he could do.
That’s when the state government decided to shut schools with less than 10 pupils by accommodating students and teachers in neighbouring schools.
Rajesh had a meeting with villagers and the idea to incentivise children was born. Sekar, a businessman from the village, offered to give a one-gram gold coin while village head Selvaraj came forward with the Rs 5,000 offer. The villagers pitched the idea to education department officials who also gave the nod. “We did not want the school to be shut. It’s a pride for our village also to have a school. So, at any cost, we want to save it,” said Selvaraj.