The ceremony scheduled at 2.00 pm onward will be attended by the Most Rt Rev Dr. George Antonysamy, Archbishop of Madras and Mylapore, the Most Rev. Dr A. Neethinathan, Bishop of Chingleput, Maria Elena Cuomo, President of the Cuomo Foundation and C.N. Ragavendran, Chairman of the Indian Green Building Council’s Tamil Nadu Chapter. Among the invitees will also be the representatives of the local administration, church dignitaries, national environmentalists, Cuomo Foundation beneficiaries past and present along with school staff, pupils and their parents.
An ambitious unprecedented project in the region, the innovative flagship school is poised to leave a durable impact in the rural remote village of Mambakkam, located 80 km southwest of Chennai.
The new building whose construction begun in 2015, replaces the dilapidated Mambakkam’s Amala Annai High School, one of only three high schools standing in the rural area. The school was founded in 1988 by the Diocese of Chingleput, which manages the school to-date. Started as a primary school, Amala Annai became a high school in the year 2000 with classes conducted up to the 10th standard. Despite insufficient facilities and infrastructure, the school, renowned for its quality teaching, has been catering to nearly 25 villages located around Mambakkam.
After 20 years of existence, however, the run-down buildings were not only inadequate for the needs of nearly 600 pupils, it posed also a viable risk to the school community. With this new building, it is not only the institution’s physical condition which is being updated—the status of the establishment also gets an upgrade as a Higher Secondary school, with classes up to the 12th standard. This enhancement undoubtedly opens new horizons to the pupils of the region, hailing from families predominantly depending on rice and sugar-cane cultivation.
A Higher Secondary school necessarily remains the passageway between basic school education and higher education—one guaranteeing advanced skills and industrial training, thus opening better future options for the youth.
The new building has a capacity of 800 pupils with 21 well-proportioned, naturally ventilated and well-equipped classrooms, spread on two floors. It also houses 4 staff rooms, an infirmary and separate toilet blocks. In addition, there are 3 physics, chemistry and biology laboratories, an audio-visual room, a large library and an IT centre sporting 30 working stations. An expansive large multi-purpose auditorium provides ample space for exams, assemblies and cultural activities. The campus also has 2 shared activity areas that are able to be utilised by both students and the local communities for social events. The school kitchens have adjoining bio gardens and the multiple dedicated green landscaped areas provide numerous sporting and social awareness opportunities and activities.
According the will of the Cuomo Foundation, the school is built following most up-to-date, international green-build guidelines with sustainable resources management and architectural practices. This environmental consciousness of the project went on to earning the school the coveted ‘‘Platinum-National Excellence’’ rating of the Indian Green Building Council. Affiliated to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), IGBC is India’s premier body for green building certification and allied services. Besides the infrastructural facilities, energy efficiency, water conservation and waste management, the IGBC Green Schools rating system also addresses more intangible aspects like eco-friendly education, health, hygiene, nutrition, physical activity and safety. Amala Annai High School met all these requirements and, in the process, became the first rural school in the whole state of Tamil Nadu to be labeled “green” by the IGBC.
This pioneering project promoting eco-friendly products, sustainable local construction methods involving local labour is an embodiment of the Foundation’s ecological position before today’s climate challenges. It has already initiated such projects and partnerships in various parts of the world, with both private and public stakeholders. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scholarship programmme upholding young PhD students from developing countries is one such example.
The rational outcome of Foundation’s 20-year-old commitment in India, the project is all the more meaningful at a time when emerging countries, with deep socio-economic mutations, become more and more prone to be engaged in the ecological transition. Placing education at the heart of our socio-ecological system, the Cuomo Foundation continues to take on its primary commitment: empowering the young to allow them to positively respond to today’s hazards and proactively take up tomorrow’s challenges.