The school has no name but it is known by the name of its teacher. As students walk to schools elsewhere, the teacher here has to reach the school covering long distances in the forest. In some cases, teachers stay at the school sharing their life with tribespeople.
Sunitha N.V. of the Alampatty multi-grade learning centre (MGLC) in Marayur cover three km daily on foot to reach the school. She started her career at Edamalakkudy inside the Munnar forest division in 2003 and was transferred to Alampatty in 2011.
However, Mariyakutty of Vellakalkudy is not so lucky. The school is 23 km in the Marayur forests. She says she had to stay at the school. There were six students from Classes 1 to IV. This year two more plan to join the school.
Jyothi of Iruttalakudy in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary says there were eight students in her class and five more are planning to enrol.
However, things have taken a turn for the worse for them with the government deciding in March this year to phase out 344 single-teacher schools.
A total of 59 MGLCs are to be closed down in the district this academic year. An official of the General Education department says seven such schools where no alternative arrangements could be made will be retained.
The MGLCs were established in 1997 as part of the District Primary Education Programme after the right to education was enshrined as a basic right. The facility provides basic education to students of different age groups in a settlement from Classes 1 to 4.
Ms. Jyothi says teachers have not received any information on the closure of the schools other than signing an agreement with the authorities on redeployed to a lower primary school as vacancies arise.
Like others, she is not sure whether she will be accommodated this academic year. Teachers are not able to assure the parents where the students will be accommodated in case the schools are closed.
“‘Our lives are in the balance and we are not sure whether we can continue our job. Without income after putting years of service is unimaginable. The parents are also worried about the future of the children,” says Ms. Sunitha.
The main single-teacher schools in the district are in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Munnar Forest Division, Marayur Sandalwood Division, and the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary.
A.P. Usman, president, Alternative School Teachers Association, says the decision to shut down the schools was taken without preparations and will have far-reaching impact. The basic feature of these schools is its adaptability to the environment of students, who are less interested in joining a general school.
Teachers adapt to the local environment, which is decisive in initiating a student to classrooms. With peers of the same community, it helps in developing the talent of students. The long travel through forests to attend classes in a primary school will naturally deter them, he says.
Mr. Usman says there is no clarity on redeployment of teachers. With schools reopening in the State on June 1, it is an uncertain period for the students and teachers of single-teacher schools.