Name : Nallagolla Narsamma
I was enrolled in the balwadi. It was such fun! We would play, visit places, have nice food, play with fellow children and learn to read and write Telugu. Later I was admitted to the government school, but after 2-3 years I stopped going to the school as I had either books nor notebooks and it was not possible for me to study. I used to stay at home, cleaning utensils, sweeping, fetching water, and cooking food in the evenings. Life went on like that. Social forestry work became available, and all my friends' parents were taking it up. I too was interested, but as we did not have any fence, my parents did not take it up, but I forced them to take it up. I used to fill 200-300 bags a day, sowing seeds, watering and growing them for a year, and then planting them in the wasteland.. Things were going on this way for some time. Then my life took a different turn.
As we have a Sangham in the village, we kids used to watch the Sangham meetings from the window. Once they saw us, the whole gang, and they said that all the kids, even if they are involved in village work, must go to school. A few of the parents had already started sending their children to school. But I heard my mother telling everyone: "no I will not send her to school, she is a grown-up girl now, and I will very soon marry her off. Moreover, the school is far away, six or seven kilometres from here, and she will have to walk through the fields". Later I cried at home and persuaded her to agree to send me to school. I was very happy, thinking that I would be able to study. I joined the Pavuram group, and I was apprehensive, and I used to wonder if they would ever take me in the school. After 10-15 days it felt nice and I made lots of friends. With me, 40 kids joined from Algole but after a year, about 8-9 stayed on? Later, we were given bus passes and we could travel by bus. After about 2 years, only 2 of us remained and appeared for the Class X exam. I learnt many skills: Permaculture, Arogyam pani (Health work), Wadrangi pani (Carpentry), Kuttu machine (Trailoring), and Barrela arogyam pani (veterinary).
The environment in the Pachasaale (Green School) was very open and all the kids used to get an opportunity for speaking , singing , story telling, and weekly reporting of what we did. And I think because of this (which is not possible in other schools) today I feel confident of speaking to any body. Every Saturday, we used to have pillalu committee (Children's Committee) for cleaning the premises, counseling the kids who were absconding from school; any undesirable happenings used to be reported to the teachers. Also, I would give a feedback to the teachers if the students were unhappy with the teaching.
Today we make audio cassettes on women's issues, food security, non-pesticidal method of agriculture, old traditional crops and cultivation practices. We three, that is, Vishvakala akka, General and myself have made 300 cassettes and have sent them to the sanghams for playing, as per the season and the issue that needs to be talked about among the members. We send the cassettes according to the coordinator's advice.
If I had not studied in this Pachasaale, I would not have studied anywhere. In other schools, it would have been very humiliating for me to be joining 3rd class at the age of 12 years. In other schools it is not possible to speak to the teachers openly and fairly. Also, the food that we ate was our own - pachajonna rotte karam (Sorghum Roti & mirchi). Further, in other schools, we couldn't have eaten our own food without feeling a sense of shame or insult.
In any other school, the clothes that we wore would have been a problem. Here at our Pachasaale, even when we wore torn clothes, whenever had to face any humiliation; it used to be just like home. We could just be without oil in our hair, or cheppulu (footwear) on our feet. If ever I had to face all these kinds of humiliations, I do not think I would have ever sat in a school and studied.
Even now, the school is like that and the kids who study now do not
suffer from any complexes, and the children do not fall into the trap
of thinking: "I do not have this or that", but are satisfied
with whatever they have. There is no craving for unnecessary things.
Name : General Narsamma
I used to work at home and then do farm labour. I also used to study with Gurumurthy sir in the Night School. Most of the time my work involved harvesting of Mulberry leaves and planting of potatoes. I did not know anything about reading and writing. I learnt alphabets and small words. There used to be books in the library. Gurumurthy sir used to teach us how to read them. There was Pillala Sangham (Children Committee) then. The night school was a part of the Pillala Sangham (Children Committee). We used to work in the morning and come back for the Night School. I had never thought of studying when I was working. But suddenly the Pillala Sangham (Children Committee) started and there was a Night School in it. There were a number of children in it. Some of them used to go to the school - MRHS. Some did not go to any school. In order to help all of us to study, the Night School was started and I also joined it.
While I was studying in the Night School, I also started working as a health worker. Then I joined the Pachasaale (Green School). In our Pillala Sangham, everybody had started going to the school except Perma and myself. Then 'sir' asked us whether we also would like to study. We said yes, but wondered what school would take us when we were so grown up. The Pachasaale was actually started for the likes of us. We both used to go, taking our tiffin (Lunch) with us, study and come back. I studied up to Class X. I also appeared for Distance Education Entrance and passed. Now I have appeared for I year BA.
My writing has improved a lot. If I see my old diaries, even I can't understand them. But today my writing has become so much better. I can write well. I feel very good about it. Besides writing, I also learnt a lot of skills: pottery, health, and permaculture. I know bookbinding as well. I love the school because of all this.
There are 150 children in the school now. But when we were there, there weren't so many children. There were a very few children. A lot of children who studied there are working in different places. Therefore, I feel very good about the school.
Some of these children have become self reliant on the basis of the skills they have learnt in the school. That is a good thing. In other schools, when the children study, they just study, and after that they may not be very useful if they have not done well in studies. But here, even if the children don't do well in studies, they can work, they can be of help to their parents. They can stand on their own feet. That's why I think it is a good place.
When we were in the school, there were a very few teachers and a very few of us. We used to bind the library books and talk to teachers. We had a very good relationship with our teachers. They were not teachers but friends. We used to work together. Even though we were big children, it did not matter. Teachers were very good with us and we were very nice to them.
I was able to pass Class X because I studied in Pachasaale. Now I am working in DDS. I get Rs. 1500/- salary per month. I am working in a big Radio Station with machines. I also do other work like vermicompost. I go to the school campus everyday. I interact with teachers and children. I have not completely come out of the school. I don't go to the classes for study, but I go to learn other skills, the ones I like.
The school has helped me a lot. If I had not gone to the school I would not have studied so much and I would have gotten married. That would have been the end of everything.
But because I went to the school, I could study. And now I am working.
Because of the school, I have been able to visit other countries, work
in different ways and work in DDS. So the entire thing is due to the