Thanks to headmaster Veeranna Madiwalar, the Nidagundi Ambedkar School in Karnataka has transformed from barren and dilapidated to an institution replete with facilities, increasing school enrollment and brightening the village’s future in the process.
At the Nigagundi Ambedkar School, you’ll be greeted with vibrant, colourful walls, plush infrastructure, lush trees and a sprawling garden, and a library stacked with pictorial books and audio-visual resources in English and Kannada alike. Today this school, located in the Nidagundi taluk of Vijayapur district, Karnataka, is a far cry from what it used to be — dilapidated and without even the minimal amenities.
These remarkable enhancements have resulted in a surge of enthusiasm among the children in the village to attend school. As a result, the student enrollment has grown from 76 to 136.
So how did the change happen? For this, we will have to thank 39-year-old Veeranna Madiwalar’s efforts.
“It didn’t occur overnight. It was a gradual journey, and everyone played a part in it,” he tells The Better India. “Today, the school stands proudly, and the students have a place they genuinely enjoy studying in.”
‘I wanted to give them what I didn’t have’
Born and brought up in a small family in Kaliwal village in Karnataka, Veeranna’s childhood was rife with struggle, he says.” “My parents were not stable financially for a very long time. My father was a daily wager and worked hard, just earning enough to bring food to the table.”
Veeranna says that even as his father struggled to make ends meet, it was very difficult to pay his school fees. It was his uncle who supported his education. “He used to say that he saw a changemaker and artist in me, and he wanted me to complete my education.”
One thing that Veeranna was sure about as a student was that he wants to make education better for future generations.
“I studied in a government school too, and the infrastructure, teaching methods, and school grounds were never up to the mark. I always dreamt of bringing change as I grew up,” he says.
“I remember my uncle introducing me to the world of Rabindranath Tagore. His literature amazed me and inspired me to write too. He believed in me so much that even today it motivates me.”
After completing his schooling, Veeranna had to fund his higher education.
“In 2001 I went to Kopla for higher education. To fund myself, I worked as a daily wage earner at a construction site for many months,” he says.
After completing a Diploma in Education, he moved back to his taluk. “I joined an NGO that worked for the rejuvenation of lakes and wildlife. I used to earn Rs 750 for working there and by saving money, I was further able to do a master’s in English and Kannada,” he says.
In 2007, his dream to become a government school teacher came true.
It takes a village
“I worked for four years before being made the headmaster of Nidagundi Ambedkar School in 2016. By that time I had saved money and was financially stable,” he says, adding that the rundown building and lack of infrastructure was reminiscent of his own school’s state.
Using his own funds, he started small — first he planted a few trees across the campus, and launched repair work of the structure. “But I knew I could not fund the repair of the school alone and would need more help.”
And so he used the power of social media to raise money. “I started posting pictures of the school with my repairs on Facebook. Word spread and, surprisingly, many people came forward to help me,” he says.
Veeranna says he then had toilets constructed for students and staff, and repaired old furniture, alongside bringing in new furnishings. “I used to stay in the school after work hours to make this happen.”
Even students began helping in the repairing and upkeep of the school. “A gentleman from Mysuru donated nearly Rs 1.5 Lakh for the school. Another person from Chanapatna donated a smart TV to the school,” he shares.
It was the combined efforts of such people that the school is in such good shape now. “With the help of social media, I was able to get a good amount of donations, which helped build a language lab in school. The students, with the help of pictorial books and audio-visual resources, learn English and Kannada,” he says.
‘I live my dreams through my students’
Until 2016, the school had a low attendance rate of about 76 students. Since its transformation, the enrollment has increased to 136, says Veeranna.
“The change is amazing,” says Suleman Sheikh, the cluster resources person of the school. “If you would have seen the building back in 2016, it was in a very sad state. I am one of the people who has witnessed the before and after of this school. There are washrooms and proper seating facilities now.”
He adds, “When the school looks appealing, students would want to come and study. Children now flock here every morning, and we have seen a rise in attendance too.”
Veeranna notes, “While I always wanted to make schools in villages better, I also desired to study mechanical engineering as a young boy. I did not have the money to make that dream come true. However, a student of mine recently completed his degree in mechanical engineering. This is my biggest win, and I live my dreams through my students.”
If you wish to help Veeranna, you can reach him at 99721 20570
(Edited by Divya Sethu)