Published: 04th September 2021
India's Best Teachers 2021: How this Telangana teacher revamped a government school from abandoned to state-of-the-art
Ramaswamy Payyavula is the headmaster of the Zilla Parishad High School in Indira Nagar, Siddipet. His efforts to improve the school won him a National Award
The people of the Vaddera community are traditionally stone and rock cutters. People from this community can be found in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Among these is the small town of Indira Nagar in Telangana's Siddipet district. It was the Zilla Parishad High School here that Ramaswamy Payyavula got transferred to in 2015. What he noticed there as headmaster led him to eventually win a National Award to Teachers.
Ramaswamy had been headmaster before. From 2009, he had served as the headmaster of a school in another village in the same district. So, an administrative role did not faze him. "When I came to this school in Indira Nagar, I found an abandoned building. The people in the area, especially those in the Vaddera community, believed that education is a waste of time. The parents would send their children to school just to while away their time while they go to work," recalls Ramaswamy.
Eventually, Ramaswamy decided to take matters into his own hands. He knew he had to reach the parents before he could get the children to school. "I organised lunches and asked parents to meet me. Over a period of a few months, I tried to convince the parents about the importance of education and why their kids should be in school," says Ramaswamy. And the school itself had to be modified. "The teachers were trained to be more empathetic towards these children. I contacted NGOs (Lions Club and other local bodies) who helped the children get uniforms, notebooks and books for free," he adds.
Besides this, Ramaswamy also got help to improve the infrastructure. "New classrooms were built along with better toilets with the help of Natco Trust," he says. And the learning method had to evolve as well. The children could not be taught as per the state government's syllabus as they didn't even have basic reading and writing skills. "So, we had to start from scratch," says Ramaswamy. He also introduced digital classes in the school and encouraged computer-based learning. "I wanted to computerise the school and also ensure that teachers are not involved in any clerical work. They should only focus on the teaching-learning process," says Ramaswamy.
What Ramaswamy wanted to do with the school is to give it the feel of a private institution. "Private schools usually have all these amenities, it starts at 8:30 am every day. I also wanted to bring that in. So, my students come to school at 8:30 and attend behavioural and personality development classes. Through the classes, students also learn about time management, self-awareness and how to build relationships," explains Ramaswamy. And that's not all. He also began coding classes in the school.
Ramaswamy and his teachers focus on ICT and also post videos of the lessons on YouTube and this, he says, helped a lot during the last year. "I trained myself on how to use Google Classroom, Zoom and so on and then, also helped my teachers receive appropriate training. These teachers trained a group of students, who, in turn, trained their fellow classmates. In a matter of a couple of months, the students were attending classes online and also appearing for exams," says Ramaswamy. "We also got the students some smartphones and tablets. The local political leaders distributed tablets and I got them some second-hand smartphones with the help of a crowdfunding initiative," he concludes.