According to ‘Children in India 2018’ report 2018, nearly 25 per cent of the students drop out from schools till they reach class eighth, after which the drop out rate increases sharply. The dropout rate, especially in rural areas is high.
Water scarcity, lack of awareness towards education, lack of infrastructure, unavailability of teachers, lack of skilled teachers, are some of the reasons behind the high dropout rate.
Belagurki, Karnataka in 2004 dealt with similar challenges. Students here wouldn’t go to school due to poor infrastructure. The region is known for high temperatures, also one of the reasons kids stayed at home.
In 2004 when Government school teacher, Kotresh Bhavihalli came to Beagurki, he noticed that only 50-60 students used to attend the classes while 200 students enrolled in the school. To make students enjoy their education, Kotresh came up with ‘Pencil’, a complete student-managed school newspaper.
“I started a school newspaper called “Pencil” which is written and managed by students of the schools. It gives them a chance to write articles, collect information, talk to people and involve the entire village and create a community altogether. It gave them a platform to show their talent, publish art and express their feelings,” said Kotresh while speaking to The Logical Indian.
Pencil gave students a creative push and a chance to make their families realise the importance of education. Parents started to feel proud of the skills their children possessed and started recommending Pencil to their extended families and friends. It was not just a school newspaper but the village’s very first newspaper that doesn’t have any connectivity with the urban cities and facilities.
The newspaper has sections such as drawing and creativity, village history and query columns which not just involves the students and their parents but the entire village. It is completely free of cost, which Kotresh volunteered to cover the expenses from his own salary for the first five years. Later, the villagers started to pool in funds by donating money on their special occasions.
It has been six years since Pencil was launched, there hasn’t been a single dropout from school. There are currently 310 students studying in the school. This initiative, Kotresh proudly says, has changed the fate of the village. His one step towards kindness and courage lit up the lives of the entire population of the village.
He happily recalls that IFA Bangalore came forward to sponsor the one-year publication of Pencil by offering ₹50,000 in 2018. “The students have been empowered to go to the Gram Panchayat and ask to better the infrastructure of their school. They are confident about their skills and abilities and are brave to conquer their dreams,” said Kotresh.
To encourage reading among villagers, the school is also planning on building a standing library in the village where regular newspapers along with Pencil will be available in selected corners.
Kotresh also claimed that the village has a maximum number of SCs and STs who are leading their lives in the utmost poor conditions. There is no connection of the village with any urban centre and students have no stationery items to use. They have only one notebook where they write notes for three subjects.
Mother Teresa once said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” This story of Pencil is a perfect example of how one’s dedication and determination can give an entire village a new chance at life and hope.
You may contact Kotresh to extend your support to Pencil Phone: 8310020942 Email: [email protected]