Koraput: As you enter Sevashram, a residential school for SC and ST students at Sipaiput in Odisha`s Koraput district, you are welcomed by the "prime minister" of the school.
While the prime minister, Binod Hontal of Class VII, is in overall charge, other `ministers` look after sanitation, cleanliness, hygiene and other matters in a novel experiment in school running.
Thus, Manjula Mudagadia, a 13-year-old student, sees to it that toilets remain clean in her capacity as the "health and sanitation minister".
"Food minister" Budu Pangi ensures that the kitchen is kept hygienic and the students are served food properly.
The ministers are part of a five-member school `cabinet` which was formed in July, 2013. They were elected by students for a period of two years.
The idea to involve students in the upkeep of the school did not come randomly. It was mooted by Odisha government and one teacher from each school underwent a four-day training schedule as a first step towards implementing it.
"Children are instruments of change. With the concept of making a student the prime minister, assisted by a cabinet, a daily routine is ensured of checking whether their schoolmates have bathed, combed and washed," says S Nageswar Rao, the headmaster.
Rao feels that the idea would also help develop leadership qualities and social responsibility among the students. He claimed that after the introduction of the concept, attendance rate at the school has increased appreciably.
"A meeting of the cabinet is held every Saturday, where we discuss the problems of the school. The health minister has been trained to give medicine to students suffering from diarrhoea and fever," he said.
Apart from the food and health ministers, the school cabinet has ministers for sports, environment and cultural activities.
Situated 35km from the district headquarters, Sevashram has 492 students, including 150 girls, from Class I to VII. The school is run by the SC and ST development department.