Sri Vidya Mandir turned 50 last year and this gave an opportunity for all those associated with the school to share their memories.
Housed in the heart of Malleswaram, the school has separate blocks for the primary section, middle school, and the high school and pre university sections, all located close to each other.
It is hard to believe that what started as a little school with three students, two teachers and a headmistress in a humble home now has more than 3000 students under its wings.
The story of Sri Vidya Mandir is inseparable from the woman who founded it. Leelavathi N, who started her career as a teacher in Madras, fell in love with the profession irreversibly. Marriage brought her to Bangalore and she pursued teaching in a local school. Her keen sense of value education coupled with an inherent love for children made her wonder if she could make a palpable difference in the field of education. The idea of running a school crossed her mind and started to take wings in 1969. Once the spade work was done, she associated with a couple of like-minded parents and formed an Education Society in 1970 and started a school with just three students.
“Making quality education available at affordable costs has been my guiding quotient from day one,” says Leelavathi better known as “Leela miss”. “While I have insisted on discipline, performance and accountability from my students, I have never turned a student away because he/she has not paid the fees,” says the octogenarian.
A couple of years later, owing to the growing numbers of students, Sri Vidya Mandir moved to a makeshift building – a cowshed, opposite the Venugopala Swamy temple in Malleswaram was leased to run the school. While this change gave Leela miss and her students more space, it also brought with it many obstacles and nagging problems. The temple authorities were divided on allowing the school to function in their premises. The dissenting members resorted to unpleasant measures to dislodge the growing institution. An individual with a weaker spirit would have succumbed to the pressure and threats but Leela miss decided to launch a legal battle to retain the space that had been leased out to her formally and legally. It is ironical to note that the lady who had never dreamt of anything except disseminating knowledge was constantly drawn into courtrooms to justify her decision to continue functioning in the new site despite obtaining permission from the concerned authorities. The long-drawn, ugly courtroom battle which went all the way to the Supreme Court, only strengthened Leela miss’ resolve to pursue her original dream of running a model school where she could mould young children into intelligent, responsible and productive citizens.
The school management, her loyal team of teachers and parents who had reposed their faith in her mission stood by her through her toughest moments. Eventually, her decision to fight for the school space proved to be the right one as Leela miss won her battle and became completely free to serve the society by providing quality education.
Once this major obstacle was overcome, there was no looking back. Though the school follows the state syllabus, the teachers ensure that the students have access to different kinds of resources to further their knowledge and are not limited just to the textbook. Chandrika Gowda, headmistress middle school, who has been with Sri Vidya Mandir for four and half decades, has been part of the school’s eventful journey as a well-loved and inspirational teacher. She says, “I do not allow my busy administrative schedule to come in the way of my classes. In fact, I try to conduct as many classes as possible because teaching opens up so many perceptions for both the teacher and the students.”
The school takes pride in creating exclusive workbooks for their kindergarten students every academic year, which lays a sound foundation for the learning years ahead of them. This exercise holds a mirror to the fact that the teaching faculty is willing to unlearn and relearn to upgrade their skills and help the children learn better.
Leela miss, with her able team has surged forth, rejuvenated, to add more feathers to the already established academic hat. Students of Sri Vidya Mandir enjoy equal time to study, play sports and participate in extracurricular activities. Gifted students are encouraged to pursue their talents and are given proper guidance and environment to do so. The students in turn bring their school more laurels individually and collectively.
The year 2000 was particularly special for the school when it presented a cultural program involving hundreds of their students on the occasion of Karnataka Rajyothsava or Karnataka formation day. The students had to practice separately at different venues due to space constraints before performing together on the prestigious occasion. All the pain taken was forgotten when the audience asked for an encore. The students’ performance was such a hit that they performed it on two more occasions on different stages.
This episode is a pointer towards the dedication reflected by the Kempegowda awardee (civilian award given by the Karnataka government) Leela miss and her teachers in whatever they do. The fact that the teaching and non-teaching staff of the school has several decades of service in the institution and have been awarded by both government and non-government bodies speaks for itself.
Sri Vidya Mandir has faced challenges and overcome obstacles to become the school it is today. Despite its success, Leela miss says, “We are happy and grateful to have come thus far but we can achieve more.”
The author is a professor of English and Sanskrit at Jain University, Bangalore. She also freelances for the print media, is a radio artist and writes scripts for television shows. She is also a proud student of Sri Vidya Mandir. She can be reached at [email protected].