Collector sets school example

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By G.C. SHEKHAR
  • Published 17.06.11
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Chennai, June 16: District collector R. Anandakumar could have admitted his daughter to any of the private schools that were ready to take her.

Yesterday, the IAS officer took the seven-year-old to a government school and queued up with other parents before getting her admitted in Class II.

The collector’s “personal” decision has created a flurry. In Tamil Nadu, enrolling children in private English medium schools is considered a status symbol while government schools — where the medium of instruction is mostly Tamil — are looked down upon.

When reporters asked Anandakumar why he chose the Tamil-medium government primary school, which had nine teachers for 300 students, the Erode district collector dismissed the fuss. “This is my personal matter. Why make it an issue?” he said.

“I myself studied in a government school,” the 33-year-old added. “So what’s wrong if my daughter also studies in a government school?”

But his message was clear: government schools, too, can provide quality education despite inadequate infrastructure and there was no need to pay the high fees that private schools charge.

The state administration has tried to fix fees for private schools but has run into stiff resistance from managements of such institutions which charge extra fees under various heads not permitted by the government.

Yesterday, when schools reopened after summer vacation, Anandakumar took his daughter Gopika to Panchayat Union School near his official residence in Erode town, 330km from here.

The collector and his wife M. Srividya queued up along with the other parents, and it was only after a senior teacher insisted that they agreed to sit in the headmistress’s room. When headmistress S. Rani offered him her chair, Anandakumar requested her to treat him like any other parent.

The collector filled up the admission form and handed over his daughter’s transfer certificate from a private school in Dharmapuri, around 250km from Chennai, where he was posted earlier.

Rani said the officer wanted to know if his daughter would get free uniforms that the government gives to students of state-run schools. “When I explained that free uniforms are given only to those children who take the free noon meal served here, the collector said his daughter, too, would have the free meal given to other students.”

After getting his daughter admitted, Anandakumar, a veterinarian by training before he became a civil servant, left Gopika in her classroom and went to his office. His wife returned in the afternoon to pick up the kid.