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Inspiring Indians

Love, Care, Empathize and Educate: Kaliyuva Mane

By Aditi Pathwardhan | AUG 2017

“To be doing good deeds is a man’s most glorious task.” Sophocles

About 15km from Mysuru, Karnataka, is a nondescript village called Kenchalagudu. Most of us haven’t even heard the name, leave alone being able to pronounce it correctly. It almost never appears on political maps of either the State or the country.

Yet, this tiny village has something that will make every Indian proud.

A school. A very special school. So special, that it’s called home.

This unusual school named ‘Kaliyuva Mane’, meaning “home for learning”, was started in 2005 by Ananth Kumar, who runs the Divya Deepa Charitable Trust, with just 14 children.

The students were children who had discontinued their education because of familial issues, societal problems, or financial constraints.

Today, Kaliyuva Mane has 114 children, 35 of whom reside in the school. Till now 36 children have cleared the 10th standard examination. Many are continuing their studies. Some are already in the job. Four of its students are going to college, staying at Kaliyuva Mane itself.

In Kaliyuva Mane, there is no fixed period for admission, nor is any tedious procedure involved. Children under the age of 12 are usually preferred.

Also, the school doesn’t ask the parents or the children their religion or caste at the time of admission. It treats all children as equals, without any kind of discrimination.

The curriculum includes subjects like Kannada, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies, apart from classes on moral values, basic hygiene, etc.

Some of the teachers in Kaliyuva Mane are volunteers, while the others are paid a salary.

Kaliyuva Mane has hostel facilities for children who need them. And, it doesn’t charge a single rupee for board, lodging, transportation or tuition.

The children are not assigned classes when they first enter school. They are allowed to roam freely in the campus and do whatever they wish to. This is when the teachers observe them.

They assess their academic level and accordingly set the curriculum for them, based on their individual needs and interests.

After this, the children are put in ‘teams’ and not ‘grades’. The teams have different names, like Chetana, Chaitanya and Viveka.

The teachers keep changing the names of the teams, so that the children don’t get to know which grade they are in. Hence, there is no scope for the children to feel inferior or superior to one another. This makes it easier for them to concentrate on learning and understanding concepts.

Tests are conducted at frequent intervals to analyse what a child needs to be taught next, and the child is moved to another team, based on the performance.

Tests are conducted at frequent intervals to analyse what a child needs to be taught next, and the child is promoted to another team, based on performance.

These children study at Kaliyuva Mane till they reach the age when they can appear for state-level board examinations. They then appear for 10th standard examinations in collaboration with other schools.

How the idea of such a unique school came about, is interesting.

Ananth Kumar, an engineer by qualification, worked in different organisations for about 10 years before he quit his job and became a volunteer with Vivekananda Kendra in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, for a year and a half.

He told Billion Beats: “In 1992, I settled down in Srirampura village on the outskirts of Mysuru. There, I got a chance to observe the education system in rural India closely. And I saw that children were going to school but they were not able to reach the learning levels they should have. Children in Class 5 were not able to read books used in Class 1.”

Ananth, who was influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, started teaching supplementary classes in the village free of cost, with the help of some friends.

These classes were conducted in the premises of a government school after school hours.

The children’s response was very heartening, and this encouraged Ananth to plan his dream school. A school that would love, care for, empathize with and then educate children, as he had found that emotional connect is very important to teach kids.

“Schools for children, not children for schools – that is the policy we work on,” says Ananth.

Currently, Kaliyuva Mane is providing many opportunities for the children to excel in spheres other than academic. There is a mock court to help them settle quarrels and disputes.

This helps them to learn debating skills and sharpen their communication skills. There is a kids’ bank which is run by the children themselves, and this helps them learn the basics of banking, and hone their arithmetic skills.

Geeta, a teacher who has been with the school for the past three years, teaches ‘Pragathi’ team children. She told Billion Beats: “Kaliyuva Mane is moulding not only students but teachers as well. Every day, early morning we teachers are trained in how to teach and deal with kids. Every day is a learning for us as well. We are very happy to be here.”

“Education depends on a lot of things – the environment at school, parents’ education, financial level of parents, etc,” says Ananth.

“One of the success stories of this school is of a boy named Prashant who came to the school in 2007 when he was 16. He was a child labourer, a school dropout, and his mother worked as a domestic help. He came in asking for work. I asked him if he wanted to study instead, and he said yes. He passed his board exams with flying colours, went to college, and has now found a job.”

Another success story is of Manu. “His parents are farmers and he had to drop out of school after Class 1. When he came in, he could only write his name in Kannada. Today, he has a job with a government agency. Impact stories like these keep me motivated to continue doing what I am doing, every single day.”

Today, Ananth works with his wife, who is now a full-time volunteer. His son studied up to 10th standard in Kaliyuva Mane. He is in college now.

Divya Deepa Charitable Trust was registered in 1999. Kaliyuva Mane ran on Ananth’s personal funds for two years after founding it in 2005. Now it gets help in the form of donations from volunteers and some public and private organizations.

Ananth, however, is a little despondent. “Despite many attempts to get accreditation for this unusual school, our school was once included in the list of 35 illegal schools of Mysore, though the DDPI had sent our proposal to the Commissioner, seeking approval. Later the Education Minister instructed the commissioner to take necessary steps to grant approval for Kaliyuva Mane. We are waiting for the Commissioner’s response. There is still a gap between our vision and the current state of the school,” he says.

At the Republic Day event organized by Kaliyuva Mane children, when a model of an Tejas jet was gifted to the school by the Billion Beats team, a child asked: “Sir, is this a real model? Can we see this plane fly?”

They were thrilled with the video of fighter jets screened for them by the BB team. The paper plane flying competition held for them was a high-spirited event. We could see that there were many potential Abdul Kalams and Kalpana Chawlas among them.

The world of Kaliyuva Mane is so beautiful that anyone who visits it is left spellbound. No wonder then, that volunteers come here from across the country, to contribute to the school by teaching and playing with its kids.

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