Palakkad: A 25-meter-long five-lane swimming pool, a sevens football turf and a six-lane 200-meter synthetic track- these state-of-the-art facilities usually exclusive to private, high-end schools are now available at a village school in Kerala's Palakkad district.
This feat was achieved by none other than the Parali Higher Secondary School.
It is a recognition to the hard work put up by the school athletic club which had contributed to national-level sports champions like V.S.Sandhya, Rameshwari, M.D.Thara, V.V.Jisha, P.Muhammed Afsal, K.T.Neena and P.N.Ajith.
It was for the first time that a management school had bagged the government's funds for building a stadium. The medal haul made by the students of the school at every state and national sports meets in the successive years made the government release the fund.
Many alumni members made it to the national sports arena by practising in difficult terrains at the school which once lacked even basic facilities for training.
MLA GAVE A FACELIFT
The school's sport facilities got a facelift when the school management, the PTA and sport teacher P.G.Manoj brought to the attention of the then MLA, K.V.Vijayadas, about the need for a stadium in the school.
Due to the consistent efforts by Vijayadas, the state government sanctioned a stadium for the school. The school management allocated 1.75 acres of land for the stadium. The state government had allocated Rs.7 crore under the KIIFB programme for the project.
An amount of Rs.7 lakh from the assets development fund of then Palakkad MP, M.B.Rajesh, now Assembly Speaker, was used for constructing a gymnasium. An amount of Rs.5 lakh had been used for erecting a high jump pad at the school from the MLA fund of Vijayadas. Vijayadas' sad demise did not affect the construction of the stadium.
More than 100 students are currently undertaking swimming practise at the school. Most of the students did not know swimming when they first came. They learn the basics here first and slowly start aiming for medals by way of rigorous practice.
SHOWERING MEDALS SINCE 2004
About 15 year ago, Parali school was not on the sports map of Kerala. The first major victory was scored when a student from the school, Pramod, won silver medal in hammer throw in the State Schools Sports Meet. He used to practice hammer throw by tying a stone in a rope.
The school started performing well in sports after Manoj Erimayoor took charge as sports teacher. He bought a hammer from his friend and gave it to students for coaching.
Soon, another student M.V.Rameshwari won gold in the 5,000 meter race in State schools' meet held in 2005. At this meet, Parali school came 14th place in the State and Palakkad district got the 7th place.
But from 2006, the school started bagging a number of medals in school meets. Students, Rameshwari, M.D.Thara, V.V.Jisha, P.Muhammed Afsal, K.T.Neena and P.N.Ajith became national champions. They are all in Central and state government services now. The school got four gold medals in the Asian School Meet held in Malaysia in 2012. P.N.Ajith bagged silver medal in 3000 meter race in the World School Meet held in Turkey.
The school, now famous in the sports circuit in both India and Kerala, was taken to these heights thanks to the efforts of sports teacher Manoj. He refused many opportunities from abroad that came in his way and stayed back in the school to hone the talents of these village students.
In the beginning, he focused on long distance walking competitions because of lack of facilities for other sports at the school.
Soon, V.S.Sandhya, a student, bagged a gold medal at a national level event in long distance walking. Now, she is a Railway employee.
LEARNING THE HARD WAY
Those students, who take sports training in the school, are mainly sons and daughters of agriculture labourers. The sports teachers remain with the students during the entire training schedule.
The training starts at 6 a.m in the morning and sometimes it extends up to night on week days. On holidays, it will be a full day of training. Systematic training is behind the success of these students.
Thousands of students were given training in various track and field events in the last many years. The coaching has been given from 8th standard with the support of most modern facilities.
Adverse climate conditions like extreme winter or hot weather do not deter these students from attending tough training camps.