The beginnings of Udavi School
by Sanjeev, 2010
Nata had been sent by Mother to help Edayanchavady village. He started a store for sale of rice at a fixed price. This was in July, 1969. Then he put up a well supplying drinking water. In June 1973 he started an incense-making unit. All this was accomplished with tremendous opposition from the villagers. There was a program to distribute food to children in the afternoon – hundreds came. “The children were dirty, covered with scabs and sores, thin with enormous bellies full of worms. It was this that made me decide to open a Kindergarten,” said Nata.
With the help of donations from some Italians, premises of a Kindergarten were constructed and inaugurated on 11th November, 1974. In the beginning 30 children were taken between ages two-and-a-half and five, out of 173 who presented themselves. A thorough medical examination was taken. The mornings started with a proper bath, freshly laundered and ironed clothes, and breakfast. There was lunch at 11:30, rest after lunch, play till 4:30 pm and then another snack. After which they changed into their original clothes and went home.
Slowly the Kindergarten grew: “a second room was added, a laundry and kitchen for the school was built, and a slide which ends in a small swimming pool which makes the children mad with joy” (Nata).
There was great resistance from the staff engaged to bathe the children – they saw it as a western eccentricity to use soap every day and wear freshly laundered clothes. Also, the ammas who did the cooking changed into white saris. This was also resisted. The nose blowing, anywhere and everywhere was replaced by a handkerchief pinned to their shirt, for this purpose.
Nata did not have the heart to send the children out from the Kindergarten at age 6 into the lowest conditions imaginable. From this concern came the thought, “why not start an elementary school?” A building was built and the school started on 15th June, 1978, for children crossing six years of age. There was a library and a room for teachers. These were the beginnings of Udavi School.