UDIPI: A 32-year-old Karnataka schoolteacher, whose education was funded by scholarships and the kindness of others, has been returning the favour every year since 2014 by welcoming groups of Class I students with a unique gift: a Rs 1,000 bank deposit each with a 10-year lock-in.
Rekha Kulal’s objective is to shore up the admission rate at Nuliggere Higher Primary School in Hosanagar, about 80km from Udupi, and ensure that once her underprivileged students complete Class X, they have something to fall back on for the rest of their education journey.
It all started seven years ago when Rekha first offered the gift to five students who had joined Class I that session. She has so far sponsored 63 students.
Hobbled by financial difficulties throughout her schooling days, Rekha had banked on scholarships and a benevolent high school teacher named MS Nagaraja Rao to complete her education and join the teaching profession herself.
“Ensuring students get guaranteed returns on a bank deposit is one small way of helping students in higher education. It’s also a way of paying back to society that held me in my time of crisis. The initiative is supported and appreciated by members and president of the school development management committee and school headmaster K Ganesh and other employees,” she told TOI.
“Bond Madam”, as she is called by students and parents, travels nearly two hours one way to reach her school in Hosanagar, which is about 50km from her house near Shankaranarayana. Besides writing articles and short stories, she is also a voiceover artiste. “I will continue to invest in bonds for little ones as long as I am in service,” she said.
Rekha, whose husband Prabhakar Kulal is a range forest officer, once could not afford a new sari while doing her diploma in education from Kumuda Umashankara Teachers’ Training Institute Kokkarne, Udupi. She now aspires to help government schools be on a par with private institutions.
Venkatesh, a daily wage-earner, is among those grateful that three children are studying in Rekha’s school. His daughters Umadevi and Preeti have received the private scholarship.