A belated honour for crusader of women’s education and empowerment

Montessori Koteswaramma

Dara Gopi

Amaravati: Dr Vege Koteswaramma, the 92-year old crusader from Vijayawada, made headlines with the Indian Government honouring her with the prestigious Padma Sri award for her contribution to women’s education and empowerment.

Popularly known as “Montessori Koteswaramma,” she has established educational institutions from LKG to PG over the years and offered education and employment to thousands of them. A lone battler, Koteswaramma used to travel to the State and national capital all alone facing every challenge on her way to deal with the corrupt politicians and conservative bureaucrats.

Being a lonely woman, she had to fight several battles with the male chauvinist politicians and bureaucrats. At times, she was restless as getting clearances for recognition to her institutions from several government departments and their officials was a daunting task. A lone battler all through her life, Koteswaramma remained unrecognised by the governments for all these years.

Having established educational institutions for women from kindergarten to the post graduation, she could have been honoured with Padma Sri and other such awards long ago. But, it took six decades for her and people who have been closely watching her feel that the Padma Sri award now is not an honour to her, but her name gives an honour to the award.

Sitting in her wheel chair, “What would I do with it now at this age?” was her first reaction when she was told about the government’s announcement of Padma Sri Award to her. She has been limited to the wheel chair for over a decade, since her husband, Prof. VV  Krishna Rao, left the world a decade ago. But, neither the departure of her soul mate nor her physical inability to move, did not make her to retire from her mission to monitor all the educational institutions that she had established for women in the city over the years. She is seen moving around in her wheel chair with an attendant. In 2015 she had entered the Guinness Book of World Records for her contribution to women’s education and empowerment.

Started as a school teacher in 1947 in Nellore after her education at Kakinada, Koteswaramma had returned to Vijayawada and worked in Zilla Parishad School for a couple of years. In 1955, she left the teaching job and established Montessori School with just 20 students whose parents were duped by a person who had collected fee from them for his school. Then on, she went on adding one after the other institution and today, it has grown to the level of a deemed university with KG to PG courses, several of them are job-oriented.

In running the educational institutions exclusively for women, she had to face tough competition from the Maris Stella College, owned by the strong Catholic Church and the Siddhartha Women’s College, established by a strong group of influential individuals from the city under the banner of Siddhartha Academy of General and Technical Education. In the early 1990s too, she had yet another competition when the One Town area got its first exclusive women’s college – Gandhi Mahila Kalasala – as most of her students by then were from the old city area. However, she withstood all this with her strong will power and dedicated service, all for the empowerment and education of women.

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