TO many people, the idea of a well-run residential school in the dry and dusty environs of Davangere could be unpalatable. But in July 1997, the Bapuji Educational Association started the Rs.20-crore Smt. Parvathamma Shamanur Shivashankarappa English Medium Residential School (PSSEMRS) on a sprawling and picturesque 40-acre campus at Shivagangotri in Tolahunse taluk in the district.
The co-educational residential school, which is affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and conducts classes from the nursery to the intermediate level, is beginning to find its feet under the able leadership of its Chairman S.S. Ganesh and Principal V. Venkatachalam. The student strength has grown exponentially while there were hardly 35 students in 1997, today there are 236 boarders and 78 day scholars. But the class strength rarely exceeds 20. Students come from places as far as Nepal and West Bengal as well as from nearby places such as Bangalore, Chickmagalur, Bellary and Raichur. The school has 33 full-time teachers.
Venkatachalam, a recipient of the prestigious National Award for CBSE principals for 1999, said: "The PSSEMRS wants every child to attain all round development in his personality, acquire the ability to think independently, and achieve academic excellence."
The PSSEMRS does not charge abnormally high fees. For boarders, the annual fee is Rs.60,000 and for day scholars it is Rs.35,000. S.S. Ganesh, one of the brains behind the project, said: "We at the BEA run this institute on a `no loss, no profit' basis. Service is our motto." Ganesh sees the school as "a modern-day gurukul, which has the right ambience for true learning".
The sprawling campus means airy classrooms. There are well-equipped and separate laboratories to meet the demands of the various science disciplines, including a `mathematics laboratory', which is designed to make mathematics interesting and simple, and a well-equipped computer centre, which offers a Cambridge University-accredited computer course by `Future Schools'.
At the PSSEMRS, the performance of teachers is evaluated constantly and they are encouraged to keep pace with the ever-changing requirements of both students and parents. Teacher lectures, in which teachers take turns to talk to their colleagues on aspects such as teaching strategies, are conducted once every month. Students in Class 12 would be specially coached to take up the Karnataka Common Entrance Test and other competitive examinations, Ganesh said.
Venkatachalam, who has over two decades of experience as Principal, has brought in novel and workable ideas. For example, at least once every month, the School observes an `awareness day'. A journal is brought out by the students who work under the supervision of a teacher.