A couple of months after Jayalal P. assumed charge as Principal of Government Higher Secondary School, Thanneermukkom, Alappuzha, it became clear he had two options he could leave the school or things had to change.
The higher secondary wing had a notorious reputation. Most of the students were from disadvantaged families. No good students took permanent admission to Plus One. Substance abuse was rife. The students were undisciplined, and teachers had washed their hands of them. Mr. Jayalal decided to stick around. That was two years ago. It did not take him long to identify the basic problemthe students could be at fault, but the school too had not done enough to show them the right path.
Having been a school Souhrida club coordinator and having attended two training sessions by NIMHANS faculty, Mr. Jayalal was aware of the importance of building a bridge with students. A programme Koode was launched in the school to strengthen teacher-student-parent relationship. He began by meeting students who arrived to seek admission and convince them to stay on. Next, he got teachers to visit the houses of all students and meet their families. Accompanying the teachers were two members of the Kaval programme of the Women and Child Development Department who were providing psychosocial support to students in the aftermath of the floods.
The home visits sparked a change in the attitude of the teachers. A teacher orientation session on understanding adolescence, led by the Kaval coordinator, was held. Then, parents were invited to an activity-based session based on a NIMHANS module with the help of the Kaval team. As the parents ties with the school started improving, so did that of the school with students.
The children began opening up to the teachers. They were given life-skills training by the Kaval team. Those who required counselling for substance abuse were provided that with the help of the Excise department and the District Child Protection Unit. Many students were able to kick the habit and focus on studies. Besides the parent-teacher association, the school roped in the local people and set up a jagratha samithi with their help.
This year, the schools pass percentage in the Plus Two examinations is 75%, a good increase from 53% earlier. Two students have secured full A + too. Today, a lot of what has been envisaged under Koode has been achieved. But there is still some way to go. More parental training is needed so that they do not label the students and destroy their confidence, says Mr. Jayalal.
The two students, Sayoogya Satheesh and Anupama Rajendran, have beautiful memories of the school and how the years they spent there left an indelible impression on them.