Every morning a babble of voices breaks the eerie silence of a graveyard as schoolchildren repeat their lessons under an open sky. This strange sight in a Bihar village is something people have got accustomed to for the past eight years.
The Kasai Tola Prathmik Vidyalaya, a government-run primary school in Madhopada, a lower middle class locality in Purnea town, about 350 km from Patna, has been functioning out of a graveyard and the authorities have so far not bothered to relocate it.
The children and teachers have no option but to bear with the circumstances.
More than 150 students, mostly from poor families, study in the graveyard school, known locally as 'Kabristanwala' school.
"Children have no option but to study in the graveyard school," said Tafique Alam, a parent, adding it was the only government-run primary school in the locality.
"Our children are afraid. They do not want to go to the school, but we are poor and cannot afford a private school. So we are compelled to send them here," he added.
Another resident and parent, Saryu Rai, said neither the local administration nor local politicians had made efforts to shift the school elsewhere.
"The school in the graveyard is impacting the psyche of schoolchildren. Also, the kids don't like going there," he said.
Meena Devi, a school teacher, admitted that she and her colleagues were forced to teach in the graveyard to save their jobs.
She said no arrangement was made to relocate the school outside the graveyard. "We have been teaching under an open sky at the graveyard."
District education officer Harihar Nath Jha said he has directed the Subdivisional Development Officer (Education) to submit a report on the matter.
The Kabristanwala school is not the only such place in Bihar. Another school, Urdu Primary Maktab, is being run inside a graveyard in Kohari village of Kaimur district, about 160 km from here.
According to Majeed Ansari, a villager, the school has been running like that for over four decades. The school is in a thatched hut at the 200-year-old graveyard.
Ansari said there was no other place for relocating the school. The villagers did not object and nobody was ready to donate land for a school either.