The school is second home for them, and they love being there, point out a group of Class 9 students of MetRo Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Mettupalayam. It was lunch break and the campus was alive with kids chattering and playing. Class 12 students were preparing for their weekly test, sitting in groups under trees. “We find our lessons very easy, thanks to our teachers, we are well prepared much ahead of the Boards. They conduct tests regularly and evaluate our performance, giving us extra lessons wherever we are weak,” said Shekhar, a student. The school boasts of cent per cent pass results for
the past five years. “Last year we had a State rank holder, S Kausalyadevi, scoring 1189 marks in XII Board; Dharani Prakash (498) and S Kavya (497) stood State second and third respectively in the Class X Boards. We are determined to hold the record this year too,” said another student, Niveditha. Small wonder the Principal, Sulochana Nataraj, is the recipient of Coimbatore District’s Best Principal award.
The MetRo (Mettupalayam Rotary) School is housed in a sprawling campus at the entrance of this small town on the foothills of the Nilgiris. It is a dream project of Rotary Club of Mettupalayam, D 3202. “You may have come across Rotarians owning a school; but only few Rotary clubs own schools,” said club member and school’s PTA president L S Sidduram.
When the children of four Rotarians were denied admission at the South India Viscose School, Sirumugai, the only English medium school in the vicinity in the 1970s, they decided to start their own school. With support from club members and several philanthropists, the school was established on a three-cent land donated by H B Nanjiah in 1975. From 1984 it slowly developed into a bigger complex, with three more acres donated by Rtn R S Ramasamy.
Today nearly 2,000 children study here, from pre-KG to Class XII. Many hail from rural and tribal belts, from villages as far as 20 km from Mettupalayam. “But distance doesn’t matter. We have 11 buses for students and staff,” said L Nagarajan, the school Correspondent, the seniormost club member. “I joined the club in 1975 and since then I have seen this school grow.”
Noting the generosity of many people, he mentioned about S Murugayyan who gave a blank cheque when the construction was stopped for want of funds, and help from industrialist N Mahalingam, from RC Madras, O Arumugasamy, the Jain Association and many more. “It is not just Rotarians; Inner Wheel members and many others also pitched in to make this school a reality,” he says. He and Rtn E Balagopal, the school Chairman are actively involved in its activities.
A spaciously laid out computer lab with 75 peripherals, well equipped science lab, facilities for sports activities and closed circuit cameras at strategic spots complete the picture. Each floor has safe drinking water facilities; a 10 kv solar grid produces green energy.
“Admissions are on merit basis; no donations. Fees are subsidised or waived for the poor; the club extends scholarships for deserving students,” said the Principal.
The school’s popularity in the region is summed up by IPP M Ismail, a paediatrician: “A week ago my hospital was abnormally crowded; to my surprise I found it was not for consultation; people wanted recommendations for the Metro School.”
The Vocational Training Centre within the school campus offers classes in tailoring, computers and a beautician course for women. At least 150 women are trained annually. “Two years ago, a villager from Vellengadu, 25 km away, learnt tailoring here; today, she has a textile showroom in her village providing employment for few women in the region,” said Ismail.
The club’s newest addition is a Rs 10 lakh clock tower, at the entrance to the town’s bus terminus, from where nearly 1,300 buses ply every day. The transport department thanked the Rotarians for this as it is now the hallmark for checking on the crew’s arrival time!
We then visit the gasified crematorium by the banks of River Bhavani, “built two years ago, with around Rs 1.2 crore public contribution and Rs 50 lakh from Rotarians. The Van/Lorry Owners Association and Hotel Owners Association also supported us,” said Sidduram. It is equipped with a unique cleaning chamber which converts the black soot into white smoke, greatly reducing pollution. The excess ashes are collected in a separate chamber which is cleaned every two months and are used as manure for the plants. Plans are underway to construct a skywalk to connect the complex with the riverbank, to make it convenient for the bereaving family to perform the last rites.
Toilet block for girls
The Rotarians have also renovated a toilet block for a government girls’ school at Sirumugai, in association with D 7930, USA and TRF and Encee Aromatics (P) Ltd of Mettupalayam. “There was no compound wall and the open backyard was dangerous as there is a liquor shop behind the school. We visited the school to install a water tank and seeing the pathetic state of the toilets and the backyard, we constructed the compound wall and toilet block and commissioned a borewell,” said Ismail. And “the strength shot up from 160 girls to 240 this year,” said the headmistress Rajeshwari.
Two road accident helpline centres complete with ambulance and para-medics set up by the club, at a cost of Rs 10 lakh, strategically at the entrance to the hills has responded to several emergencies since 2000.
Chartered in 1961, this is the only Rotary club in the town; all 54 members are MPHF Rotarians. Last year they were recognised as the ‘Outstanding Club’ of 3202, out of 102 clubs.