A school near Kodaikanal nurtures children for an ecofriendly future
Greening young minds
J SARAVANAN KODAIKANAL (TAMIL NADU)
nestled in the serene environs of Palani hills in Tamil Nadu -- a stone's throw from Kodaikanal, -- there is a small school with a difference. Known as the Sholai school, this unique school generates energy for its entire campus from micro-hydels, wind and solar energy and has no connection to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board. Besides, the biogas plant set up within the campus also caters to the daily energy requirement. Not just this, the school is also practising rainwater harvesting to tap the monsoon rains.
It all started in 1989. An Englishman Brian Jenkins for long toyed with the idea of starting a school where children could learn from nature and be given full freedom for individual growth. While sauntering through the Palani hills, he found it an ideal location for study and reflection. Brian published advertisements in the papers and recruited a few teachers who went around and mobilised students through word of mouth. The money came from Brian's inheritance. At present, Brain is investing nearly us $6,000 a month on the school. Brain feels that most of the parents of these students are farm workers and to achieve financial self sustainability, the strength should be increased to 100 with more students from outside.
Initially the school had only six students. However, today the strength is 32. And these children(aged between 3 and 17 years) are being inculcated with knowledge of water conservation, non-conventional methods of energy, sustainable agriculture and lots more. Most importantly, this knowledge is not confined to books but is made functional. The students are given a free hand in selecting their subjects of interest and are "encouraged to study and learn on their own ." What's more, students get individual attention as the student- teacher ratio is 7:1.
Sholai children have taken turns at measuring the wind speed at the top of a hill. They collected the data on the computers and printed out 18 graphs. Impressed at the results, an appropriate technology consultant Ram Subbu got a 10 kilowatt government subsidised wind generator for the local village.
Interestingly, the children also bring out a Tamil newspaper through which they generate awareness on various local issues. Sometime back, the children had suggested that by building latrines, the hookworm disease, which kills little children, could be combated.
At this school, there is ample scope for children in their formative years to learn how to use their hands in doing electrical, motor mechanical, plumbing and other such disciplines. During woodwork, when the child is making something, be it a spoon or a small desk for the school, he discovers a strong sense of his or her own ability to create something in life.
Brian holds the conviction that a young person who has discovered that the Earth is beautiful will naturally feel responsible towards it. Once the child feels that responsibility, he or she will find out the practical solutions needed to care for nature's bounty. Certainly, it is this conviction in his children which motivates Brain to carry on his cause.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.