It’s that time of the year when parents start hunting for ‘good’ schools for their children. And though most parents, after a lot of mulling over decide to enrol their child in a school that doesn’t load them with homework or test them every month with examinations, somewhere down the line, giving in to peer pressure, they wonder if letting their child grow up in such an environment is a good thing in this competitive world. And often schools bend to the wills of the parents and oblige.
An institute that has refused to do so is Lenin Balavadi. The students arrive in colourful clothes and bright smiles. The bell rings and the classes begin with the children doing light exercises. The students count the number of side crunches, squats, et al, first in Malayalam, then in Hindi and finally English. This is followed by a prayer and the singing of the national anthem.
The classes are interactive with the teachers, Ambili R., Kurup, Laly L. and Nisha T.J. Nair, asking about the sights and sounds the students observed on their way to school. Ambili holds up different leaves and asks them which fruit tree they come from. Each correct answer is met with a round of applause. After a break for snacks and a brief romp in the playground, the students get busy practising for their upcoming school day.
Started in 1983, Lenin Balavadi is perhaps one of the earliest institutions in the city to introduce the concept of learning through play. An offshoot of Lenin Clinic, one of the oldest clinics in the capital city to administer oral polio drops, the pre-school education centre was started by a group of like-minded people. Lenin Clinic, which was founded in 1969, was originally near Thampanoor. They shifted to Vazhuthacaud when the government gave them a piece of land on lease in 1971. A clinic and a children’s park were started on the premises.
“We wanted it to be a ‘model’ nursery school, where Malayalam is the chief medium of instruction. ”
Noticing the heavy bags and the pressures of education children have to go through, S. Sharma, K.N. Pai, P.T. Bhaskara Panicker, Pushpita John and a few others decided to start an institution for young children that would let children learn and develop in a stress-free environment. And that was how Lenin Balavadi was born.
“When the clinic was no longer required, the organisation evolved into a Balavadi in response to the influx of English medium education even for pre-school children. We wanted it to be a ‘model’ nursery school, where Malayalam is the chief medium of instruction. While at first the school was open to those between the ages of three and six, it is now open to those aged between two and a half and five,” says Leela Devi, a former joint director, Pre-School Education and the director of Lenin Balavadi.
V.R. Janardhanan, a senior member of the institution, recalls how they went door-to-door to recruit students when they first began. While most schools believe in ‘the more, the merrier’ concept, the school administrators of Balavadi were clear that they did not want more than 30 students in the school.
The school is from 10 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. but many working parents avail themselves of the ‘baby sitting’ facility offered by the school and pick their wards by 5 p.m.
S. Sreekumar’s children are former students of Balavadi. Says Sreekumar, office secretary of Lenin Balavadi: “Most parents fear that their children will not be able to cope with the pressures of a regular school after learning in such an environment. My children are studying in a mainstream English medium school and are doing just fine as are the other students who have had their early training from our school.”
Calling old students
The school plans to start an alumnus shortly. During the 25th anniversary of the school, not many turned up for the event. “We are curious to know about the whereabouts and the well being of our students and so hope to connect with the students soon. Hopefully, we can have a get together of all our students shortly,” says Leela Devi.