Nelapogula is a small village that is about 100 kilometers from Hyderabad and about an hour’s drive from Warangal. It is part of the Jangaon town in Warangal district in the newly carved state of Telangana. I had the opportunity of visiting this village three times in the last few months. Each of my visits landed me at an Upper Primary School run by the state Government.
Mr. Lakshminarayana Kesari who grew up in this village emigrated to the US in 1969. He comes from a very humble background and knows what it means to survive on one meal a day. His parents, especially his mother, put in a lot of effort to get him well educated. After completing his bachelors in Chemical Engineering in Osmania University, sheer hard work and determination helped him in carving out a successful career in the US. He helped several of his relatives and others from the village to go to the US and build good careers for themselves. His kids are well settled and he is now doing what he has always been longing to do i.e. to serve his village to the best extent possible. He donated liberally in setting up a fluoride water treatment plant, in renovating an old temple, and in relocating the only government school to a bigger and better place. He is working closely with the government agencies to get reliable internet and mobile phone towers to the village. Mr. Lakshminarayana along with his friends from Chicago makes frequent visits to the village to ensure that his projects are going as planned.
I had the opportunity of meeting this gentleman through Mr. Surendra, a classmate of mine from my engineering college days. We had several interactions and I am very touched by Mr. Laxminarayana’s passion to do something for the community that shaped his childhood. We visited the school and had meetings with both the children and the teachers. On two occasions I had a lengthy meeting with the teachers to understand their needs and the issues that they are facing. Each of these meetings provided me with deep insights into the working of a typical village school. Last Saturday – July 23, 2016 – we created a basic plan for the upcoming academic year on teacher training and additional programmes for the children. Last year they organized their very first annual day on a large scale. This year we are in the process of organizing a sports day and repeating the annual day with the same zeal as last year. The school is blessed with good teachers and good infrastructure.
With financial assistance from the government this school serves free lunch and provides two dresses per year in addition to textbooks and notebooks to each of the about 130 boys and girls that attend classes I to VII. The medium of instruction is Telugu and this academic year they started English medium sessions for classes I & II. Mr. Lakshminarayana is working very hard to connect with various government agencies to ensure that this school receives the necessary attention that it deserves. He is making significant financial contributions too.
On my second visit to this village Mr. Laxminarayana asked me if I would like to meet some of the students who graduated from this government school and joined class VIII in a nearby town. These students met Mr. Lakshminaraya several times earlier and they were pleading him to do something for them to do better in their studies. There are eight girls and every one of them is a first generation learner. I was floored by their desire to get educated and go beyond the classroom instruction. They were not happy with the kind of education they are receiving and they knew that they can do better. They all came on their bicycles to travel over 3 kilometers to meet me. After the meeting they went back to their school to be there just in time for their lunch. I spent nearly an hour with them. They wanted to learn English and Mathematics. I have agreed to work with these students throughout this academic year. They in turn agreed to bring in more students who can get benefited by the modules that I am going to teach. The plan for me, for now, is to travel to this school on alternate weekends, evaluate the effectiveness of my interventions and adjust the schedule accordingly. My time will be spent in training the teachers in English, impart basic computer skills and train on some teaching techniques. I will also be teaching English, communication skills and mathematics to about 20 students. There is a great desire to initiate many child specific interventions to improve enrollment, attendance, and retention.
I feel honoured and privileged to connect with this school and work with the teachers and students, this academic year and in the distant future too. This is my journey with them as they travel along the path of a major transformation that will effect not only the school but also the entire village in a very significant way.
My work begins on Saturday August 6, 2016 and thereafter a day long visit every other weekend! I am certainly very excited!