This village school has access to some of the best sports infrastructure. Meet the teacher who made it happen

PG Manoj is the Physical Education teacher at Parali Higher Secondary School in Palakkad who has been a constant in the school's rise to sporting glory
Parali Higher Secondary School sports complex | Pic: Courtesy of PG Manoj
Parali Higher Secondary School sports complex | Pic: Courtesy of PG Manoj

A 200-metre synthetic track, a Sevens football turf and a five-lane, 25-metre swimming pool. These are not sports infrastructure belonging to an urban sports club or an international school. They are all housed in a village school in Parali within Palakkad district. How, you ask? Well, the students of the school gained the attention of political leaders through their performance in state-level, national as well as international meets. A constant pillar for them has been PG Manoj, the Physical Education teacher at the school. We talked to him about how he has kept himself and the school going in the right direction for over 26 years. Excerpts from a lively chat:

Tell us about your initial days at Parali. How did it all begin?

I came to Parali Higher Secondary School in 1995. At that time, the school was hardly known for its sports achievements. Palakkad district used to come 13th or 14th in the state sports meets. After many years of hard work and dedication, we managed to improve our performance. Finally in 2004, at the Ernakulam sports meet, the school managed to bag the 7th spot and Palakkad came 5th in the district rankings for the first time in history. In the years that followed, our school has produced several athletes at even the national level and we have become a model school in sports in Palakkad district. And we managed that despite being a school in a rural area with no modern facilities. In the recent years, Palakkad managed to become the champion district. In this effort, we were the school that led from the front. We even participated in the World School Athletics Meet in 2016 and our student, PN Ajith, brought accolades with a silver medal in the 3000 m event.

How did the project to build the sports infrastructure come about?

The project to build better sports infrastructure was taken under the wing of former MLA KV Vijayadas and former sports minister EP Jayarajan. It took 26 years for it to happen but I feel it is well merited. Our achievements caught the people's eyes and that is how we gathered support. It is a fitting reminder to people that good things happen to those who wait and work hard. 

How bad was the disruption in your routine at the school due to the pandemic?

The unfortunate reality is that due to COVID, many students have become very inactive at home, in the physical sense. They have gained weight and lost all of their fitness. The regime that they had while in school is all lost due to the pandemic. For the last 20 days, I have been conducting a camp to help the students regain their fitness. They have been training for four hours every day, except on Sundays. 

You have received offers from schools abroad as well. Why not take them?

Yes, I have received offers from schools abroad. But I have never once thought of leaving my school and my hometown. How could I do that? The kids that I trained would be completely abandoned. I feel that the job that I have here has been bestowed upon me by God. Visiting other countries can be done even after retirement. Not abandoning the school is what has allowed me to develop close ties with the people here. 

What are some of the goals that you have set for yourself?

The objective that I have for the next (and my last) five years of service is to make the students capable enough to get jobs. I am a firm believer in the notion that a job would enable three generations of a family to survive. I also dream about at least one student of mine getting the chance to represent India at the Olympics in Paris in 2024. That is my ultimate desire. 

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