Muvattupuzha: Schools mostly teach academic lessons and punctuality to the students, but here is a small school which contributes to a village's prosperity in a multitude of ways.
The farming and philanthropic activities being carried out by the students of Government LP School, Neerampuzha, near Muvattupuzha, under the Malayala Manorama-sponsored 'Nalla Paadam' scheme, bear testimony to the fact that a small group of committed people can make a big difference.
Their efforts have been duly rewarded as GLPS Neerampuzha was among the schools in the state that were awarded an A+ grade for the successful implementation of the 'Nalla Paadam' project. The school located along the district border also won the third prize in the district last year and became a pride of the villagers.
Remarkably, the school with a total strength of just 62 students has been on the forefront in the state’s ambitious attempts to attain self-sufficiency in vegetable production.
Apart from setting up a vegetable garden at the school, their other initiatives included 'Matsya Gramam' fish farming project, 'Pattukoottam', a noble effort to preserve folklore and folk arts,
'Thyagapetti', a charity program for poor patients, and a number of self-employment programs to address the issue of unemployment in the locality.
The students, ably supported by their teachers, cultivated a wide range of vegetables by involving households in the locality. The initiative aimed at self-sufficiency in vegetable cultivation in the village was launched on the auspicious day of Chingam 1.
Elderly people in the area and parents guided the children with valuable farming tips.
The young farmers were very keen on nurturing the saplings as they tended to the plants after school hours without fail, said a teacher.
Extending their full support to the students, almost all households, even those with the tiniest of plots, started growing at least one vegetable on their premises.
Taking a cue from GLPS Neerampuzha, many other schools in the region have also taken up similar pesticide-free farming projects.
The key objectives of the Matsya Gramam project was to revive natural water-bodies to mitigate water crisis during summer, achieve self-sufficiency in the production of fish, and help housewives in the locality earn additional income.
One of their first initiatives involved reviving a large pond in the area which had remained a cesspool and a breeding ground for mosquitoes for many years. Under the project, 10 more ponds will be cleaned up during this monsoon season.
The students have also started a floating vegetable farm in the small pond on the school premises.
A training program in LED bulb production for mothers of students belonging to financially-backward families was organized. At present, each member earns an amount of at least Rs 400 per day by manufacturing LED bulbs.
The aim of the 'Thyagapetti' (charity box) project was to encourage philanthropy among students and generate voluntary contributions to fund the medical expenses of the underprivileged.
When they get some pocket money, instead of spending it on chocolates and ice-creams, the students deposit at least a part of it in a small box placed at the office room. Many poor patients have benefited from these little savings, teachers said.
'Pattukoottam' under 'Nalla Paadam' is a step towards preserving folk art forms that are facing the threat of extinction as well as protecting our cultural heritage for future generations. The Pattukoottam team, which comprises parents and teachers apart from students, has already staged folk-based programs in as many as 30 venues.
The earnings from the programs will be contributed to 'Ardrakeralam', a joint initiative of Malayala Manorama and UNICEF aimed at brightening up the future of children with brain and neurological conditions.
This humble school has also set an example for others by taking up paddy cultivation successfully. The rice and vegetables produced by the students are being used for the mid-day meal program at the school.
Two biodiversity projects - a butterfly park and a 'Nakshatra Vanam' (planting of trees assigned to each zodiac star sign) – were also launched.
The 'Nalla Paadam' squad members have also been doing their bit for various social causes. Apart from providing financial help to old-age homes in the region, they have been regularly conducting training program for parents in making of soaps and detergents and awareness campaigns to sensitize local people to social issues.
All the projects are implemented under the guidance of headmistress P. K. Sujatha, and 'Nalla Paadam' coordinators Mercy N. George and Rani Mathew.