The clock hits 1’o clock, as school bell rings and hundreds of boys in blue uniform run towards the hostel mess inside the hostel for lunch.
On the Pughs Road, amidst a number of small settlements in the Radha Krishna Puram, is the only school in this area, P. Venkataraman Rao Higher (Thideer Nagar to some) Secondary School.
P.V. Rao School has three main criteria for admission, says T. Kathikeyan, Headmaster of the school who is in this school for past seven years. Prospective students must be poor, or must have a single parent or must be a part of broken families.
Gopinath, one of the students, studying in 9th standard joined this school last year. “I was studying at Subbarayan School in Shanti Nagar for 2 years.” He didn’t really tell at the start why he left that school while he was studying in English Medium in that school whereas all subjects are taught in Tamil Medium in this school.
Belonging to Pulianthrope area in North Chennai, Gopinath comes from a poor family of daily-wage labourers. Due to a conflict with his employer, his father had to change his job and couldn’t find a job for next six months. Eventually, when he did the pay was comparatively less from his last job. Gopinath doesn’t have a mother, as she passed away four years ago.
P.V. Rao School, an all-boys schoolis run by Chennapuri Annadan Samajam trust. The trust manages two branches of this school. One is in Parry’s which for students from k.g. to 5th standard, this one is for students from 6th to 12th standard.
Funded mostly by Government Schemes and donations, the school offers free schooling and hostel accommodation. It is this very reason, the headmaster says that the drop-outs in this school are rare. Some students change the school due to proximity of their relative homes or comfort levels but they don’t leave their education mid-way.
Talking to the hostel warden, KhajaMohideen, a 50-year old half-bald, spectacled gentleman who was earlier in shipping business doing parcel unloading/loading work, is in this school at this post for more than a year and a half. Belonging to Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu, Mohideen seems satisfied with his job of looking after the kids and taking care of them.
People living in the area
Anjali, a Rajasthani woman, migrated to Chennai after marriage. Her husband moved from Vellore to R.K. Puram couple of years ago. He works in Madras Rowing Club nearby, earning a monthly income of Rs 6000. She has to pay a rent of Rs 1200 for a small room which is situated in front of the school.
She has a 12-year old daughter. Her daughter doesn’t study in P.V. Rao School because she has both her parents. She goes to a Government School in Royapettah, a few kilometers away.