It was a unique occasion; three organisations celebrating their silver jubilee! At the centre of attention was the Mogappair Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Chennai, which last month celebrated its 25th year through the inauguration of a spanking new, vibrantly coloured block with nine classrooms, thanks to the help extended by RC Chennai Midcity, RID 3232, and VS&B Containers, both also celebrating their silver jubilee year. The VS&B Silver Jubilee Block, which cost a whopping ₹1.5 crore, was fully sponsored by VS&B, headed by club member Bijoy Paulose.
The spanking new block was inaugurated by Rajya Sabha MP P Wilson in the presence of TN HR&CE minister P K Sekar Babu and DEO Selvaganesh. This is the first block under the club’s silver jubilee project at the school campus spread across 4.5 acres.
RC Chennai Midcity has had a long association with the school, all the way from 2008, and has invested a mega ₹5 crore on its development.
It all began when the club adopted the school 14 years ago after providing it with a science lab, a water treatment plant and a library. “The school was in a bad shape then and the children’s education was badly impacted,” recalls club president Anup T N.
In 2011, the club led by Nandita Bansal, provided facilities such as well-ventilated classrooms, a sports track and a basketball court. “We introduced the children to the game and from then on there was no looking back. The new facility helped three students get admission in Queen Mary’s College in the sports quota. Now many girls take to the sport with much enthusiasm,” he says. In 2018, the club helped the school upgrade to the higher secondary level by adding infrastructure worth ₹2.75 crore.
“Now we are at Phase 3 of our commitment to the school and we will soon be inaugurating another 12 classrooms,” says Anup. A toilet block with 19 washrooms and equipped with sanitary pad dispensers and incinerators are also part of this project.
With this makeover, the student strength steadily rose from 320 in 2018 to 944 students now. “We are committed to making this a model school in Chennai. Our objective is not just building infrastructure, but also supporting the overall growth of the girls,” he adds. Soft skills workshops and seminars on personality development and personal safety are regularly organised for the students by the club.
It was heartening to hear P Dhanushree of Class 8 say, “I want to be a singer. Trust me, we have the best facilities here and the teachers are just awesome.” She spoke with such confidence and flair that it was like hearing a private school student speak. Similar appreciation was echoed by L Bhuvaneshwari of Class 4: “Oh, I love my school,” while Preetha R dashed into our little group to say, “The computer lab, games court and our library are great.” Spoken English classes are also conducted for the students, and that explains the fluency and the perfect diction. The entire ambience is so much different from any other government school, all thanks to this Rotary club.
“One of the seven students from the recently included Class 12 batch even got into a medical college in Erode after qualifying in the NEET exams,” says Anup. Most of the children are from the city outskirts. Following the Covid pandemic, many people in private employment lost their jobs and couldn’t afford private schools for their children. For many such parents this school has been a blessing, he adds.
“There is continuity year after year and the entire club supports the project. Each president is equally committed to keep it going. That has helped in its overall development,” says Rajiv K P, last year’s club president.
“It is easy to say that money is what drives a project like this. But frankly it is not. It is actually the dedication of so many Rotarians who have put in so much time into the implementation of this project. It is an achievement for the club,” says the project’s major donor Paulose, adding that this is undoubtedly the biggest project that VS&B has ever donated to. “There is no better vehicle to do a CSR project than Rotary because every single paise given to Rotary can be seen in a building or in the services being given.”
The club had earlier stayed away from the school for 18 months “because the then headmistress didn’t want us. But when she realised that without Rotary things did not move, she called us back,” smiles Anup.
About 200 students will soon be getting bicycles through a government programme. “We only pitch in where the government cannot provide support,” he adds.
The club will be tying up with Nippon Paints to teach girls above 18 to paint and provide employment through the organisation. During the Covid pandemic the club raised ₹1.07 crore in two weeks to set up a Covid block at the Hindu Mission Hospital in Tambaram on the city’s outskirts.
The club has 43 members. “We are working on inducting new members but it is a slow process because we want to add like-minded members who share our thought-process and would want to stay with us for life,” says the president.