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They float to school on rubber tubes

india Updated: Jan 20, 2007 11:29 IST
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Believe it or not, children of a Rajasthan village cross a 40-foot-deep and 120-foot-wide river on discarded tractor rubber tubes to go to school, risking their lives every day.

One tube carries four of them while a good swimmer steers it towards the other side of the river.

Each student from Rolana village in Kota district, 250 km from Jaipur, starts at least half an hour early, with the schoolbag and uniform on their shoulders and a rubber tube in hand, to be able to reach school on time.

Once on the other side, they change into their school uniforms and hang the wet clothes to dry on bushes. After school is over, they change back into their morning clothes, dry by now, and follow the same ritual to reach home.

This long, arduous and risky journey to school and back is necessary as there are not enough boats to carry them across the river. And if they take a road to school, it takes much longer. Moreover, the road passes through a dense forest.

When the river is in spate during the rainy season, there are no boats at all!

Rolana has only one school - that too a primary school. The nearest secondary school is in Kundanpur, which is across the river. But children of Rolana are so determined to study further that they have no qualms in risking their lives.

"I can't sit at home and be uneducated just because I was scared to cross a river," says Garima Kanwar, a Class 10 student.

Says Deepak, another student: "We want to study and become independent. One has to cross the river to go to Kundanpur and there are not enough boats to take all of us."

The villagers too are willing to send their children to school despite the risk involved. "Sometimes when the river is in spate, we don't trust our children with the tubes. So we accompany them," says Gajraj, a parent.

There are also occasions when the students are faced with a flat tube. But that too doesn't deter them.

"We manage to swim over to the other side but the problem is our bag gets wet and the books are all soiled. It makes it impossible to attend school that day. So we come back, dry the bag and books and go to school the next day," explains Mahendra, a student.

A few teachers at the Government Senior Secondary School in Kundanpur belong to Rolana. They too follow the same method of crossing the river.

Mohammed Hafiz, principal of the school at Kundanpur, credits the villagers for being so aware and sensitive to their children's education.

"They are very encouraging. It is because of them that there's a zero drop out rate among students from Rolana."

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