The kids were mostly clueless while their parents’ faces looked stressed. The event was the selection of students to the newly started Sobha Academy which aims to provide high quality education of international standards to the wards of the common people. The group that had gathered at the venue included auto drivers, farmers, laborers, unemployed people and some commoners as well. The crowd erupted into loud applauds and cheers when the names of each kid was called out. While some had tears of joy in their eyes, others embraced their kids with pride.
Many of them were overwhelmed as if they had won a mega ‘bonanza’ through the lucky dip. The admission process to the Sobha Academy at Panniyankara near Vadakkancherry in Palakkad was done in a unique and fair manner. The students at this school would be provided free education, uniform, food and other facilities. The school promises high quality education with a faculty of qualified teachers who have excelled in national levels, and efficient class rooms of international standards. A school like this could cost at least Rs 1 lakh as monthly fee elsewhere. However, the sole aim of Sobha Academy is to provide quality education for the poor students who hail from the Vadakkancherry, Kizhakkancherry and Kannambra panchayats. All these facilities would be provided absolutely free of cost.
This school is run by the Sree Kurumba Trust began by PNC Menon, the founder and chairman of Sobha Ltd. PNC Menon, who was born in a middle class family in Kerala, now helms a multibillion dollar construction firm and has found a place in the World’s Billionaires List published by the Forbes magazine. The billionaire began the Sobha Academy as he had dreamed of training international citizens from his hometown in Kerala. He wishes to give the poor students of these villages what he couldn’t achieve in his childhood. From the pre –school to the plus two, the students at the Sobha Academy would be provided with free education and other facilities that would train and motivate them to become world class citizens. The students who pass out this institution would be supported when they enroll for higher education anywhere in India or around the world. Every student would be given regular medical checkups until they pass out. The teachers would be in constant touch with the parents to communicate about their wards’ progress in academics and other extracurricular activities. The students will get opportunities to meet and interact with many famous and successful personalities. The lofty ideology and vision of this institution is evident from the fact that they like to call themselves the Sobha family.
No student can secure admission to the academy through recommendations or any other means of endorsements. Students hailing from economically backward families would be given priority in the admission process. A detailed survey would be conducted about the students who have applied. Only those who belong to the most financially backward families would be included even in the lucky dip.
The students at the Sobha Academy lovingly call PNC Menon ‘muttachan’ or grandfather. Every year, Menon, who has kept aside a share of his wealth for charity, would be part of the admission lucky dip at the school. Menon and his family are just spectators at this event while the admission process is conducted by well trained and highly qualified school officials.
Many parents at the venue hold their kids closer to them, praying that their little ones would get whatever they couldn’t. Meanwhile, the parents of the children, who got selected through the lucky dip, for a moment, cannot believe that their kids would actually be studying at one of the best schools in the country. Each student would be picked up from their homes in the morning and would be dropped back in the evening, so that the parents wouldn’t be worried about their safety. Sobha Academy is not just the wish of one person or a family; instead it becomes the collective dream and aspiration of everyone in these villages.