47-year-old Rajaram is not just a government teacher for the students of Baarali village in Udupi district of Karnataka. He is also the bus driver of the school. Every day, before the school starts, he picks up the students from their respective homes and then drops them back once the school gets over.
With overall 24 years of teaching experience, it’s been more than 14 years since Rajaram started teaching Maths, Science and Physical Education to the students of Government Higher Primary School, Baarali. “In last few years, a lot of kids started to drop out from the school. At one point there were only 60 kids left in the school. I tried to find the reason behind the rapid school drop out,” said Rajaram while speaking to The Logical Indian.
Revealing the problem, Rajaram said that there is no pakka road to the school. “It is a mud path through which the children had to trek 6-km of forest area to reach the school. A lot of parents told me that they do not feel safe in sending their wards to the school. I was getting worried about the fact that because of so many kids leaving the school, we might have to shut the school,” he added.
Saddened by the increasing drop out numbers, Rajaram thought of getting a bus for the school transport. He said, “I thought that if there will be a bus to take and drop the student to there home, then the parents will not be reluctant to send their kids to school. I proposed the idea to other teachers and everyone seemed to like it. But, the only problem was to arrange for the finance for the bus,” said Rajaram.
Rajaram reached out to a few of the school’s former students for some help.
According to Rajaram, last year, Vijay, who runs a property management company in Bangalore, with the support of his family gave three lakh rupees to the school authorities to get a bus.
“We got a 16-seater small bus in just a few days. Some other donors agreed to pay for monthly diesel and the maintenance of the bus. Now, the hurdle was to get a driver, when we asked a few drivers, they said they would at least charge 7,000-8,000 a month, which was more burden for the donors. Then I decided to drive the bus on my own,” said Rajaram proudly.
Soon, there came a change in Rajaram’s routine. Rajaram now wakes up at 5:30 am, an hour and a half early from his previous routine. After coming back from his morning walk, Rajaram finishes his daily course. At sharp 8 am, Rajaram starts his bus to pick his first batch of students.
“It takes four trips to collect all the student. I end my last trip to school at 9:15 am. The school starts at 9.30 am and my day as a teacher also starts then,” said Rajaram.
Rajaram, whose WhatsApp display picture is a yellow bus with school name written in Kannada, told us “It was a good decision to get a bus. In the last one year, our strength has improved, from 60 it has gone up to 90 students. There are now 47 girls and 43 boys in the school. Now the parents feel safe in sending their children to our school.”
When asked about why the government is not providing money for the school transport, he said that the school hardly gets money for kids uniform and books from the government. The government will not give us (the school) money for “extra facilities”.
The Logical Indian appreciates Rajaram’s dedication.