Anil Angadiki spent much of his life trying to teach science to children who could not read and write. As a chemistry teacher for grades 11 and 12 and principal of PU College in Koppal, Karnataka, he was constantly coming up against the results of the government policy of ‘no retention until grade 10’ — students were being promoted to higher classes without even basic learning, leaving teachers such as Angadiki helpless. So, when in June 2012, he heard the Azim Premji Foundation (APF) was looking for a principal for its primary school in the state’s Yadgir district, he needed no convincing. “This was an opportunity to create a K-12 school from scratch,” says a visibly happy Angadiki as he takes us on a tour of the two classrooms of his school. They are plain rooms with worn-out paint that look lively and vibrant with board games such as snakes and ladders, ludo and tic-tac-toe painted on the floor, colourful cloth bags filled with flash cards and picture books hanging on the walls, and children’s art work suspended from the ceiling.
Around 90 students from nearby villages attend this school. Girls, children from poor families and those with single parents are given preference. Children of migrant workers are not admitted since they tend to leave abruptly; children from the city do not qualify for admission, either. About 75% seats are reserved for students under the Right to Education Act while the rest is open to all eligible students, including children of teachers. Students don’t pay for anything — APF covers all their expenses, including books, mid-day meals, uniform, footwear and school bags. “Finally, I realise what quality education means. There is lot of scope for creativity here and right now, the only constraint is our school building,” Angadiki says, referring to the rented warehouse that houses the school. The landlord is not amenable to any alterations in the layout. But that will soon be resolved. Across the road, APF has already bought 3.5 acre of land to build its own school, apart from a district institute (more on that later).