A river engulfed their school building four years ago, but could not rob them of their will to study. As many as 85 children of Par Bhaluka Primary School in Harishchandrapur of Malda district, notorious for being the national hub of fake currency, have been attending classes all these years on bare ground under a thatched roof precariously standing on four pieces of bamboos with no wall shielding them from the distractions outside.
Be it scorching summer, bountiful monsoons or biting winter, the students attend classes in this way.
There are two permanent and a para-teacher in the school for 85 students, who are all residents of the Par Bhaluka and adjacent villages. There are no tables and chairs, or even a blackboard in this 55-year old school. The teachers sit on a broken wooden bench.
In 2013, after the Fulahar river swallowed the building it has not since been built again despite district primary education department getting land two years ago.
“Only the teachers of this school and villagers know what sufferings the little boys and girls are going through. It is impossible to run a school in this way,” said headmaster Ramchandra Rabidas.
“If it rains the teachers and students take shelter in the house of local people. But we have noticed that the little students haven’t lost hope despite the odds. Most of the students attend classes every day,” said Khondekar Ali, a resident of the village.
Erosion along the banks of rivers such as the Ganga, Fulahar and Mahananda are a regular feature in the district. Down the years, big money is spent to fortify the banks to prevent erosion, but the disaster continues with residences, schools, government offices caving in every year into the rivers. (The Fulahar is a distributary of the Mahananda that branches off near Kishanganj in Bihar before it flows into Malda and merges with the Ganga.)
“Around two years ago land was allotted for the construction of a new building for the school. But we haven’t seen any initiative for it. We are planning to launch an agitation for a permanent building,” said Nimai Mondal, a member of the Bhaluka gram panchayat.
“I will let know the matter to the Sarba Siksha Mission authority,” said district inspector of schools (primary), Gopal Biswas when he was informed of the state of the school by HT.
Locals said several officers of the Sarba Siksha Mission visited the land earmarked for the school a number of times. But so far only a latrine has been constructed.
But the students appeared nonchalant and brimming with enthusiasm. “We love coming to the school. Attending classes under the open sky has become a habit for us,” said Ruby Khatun, a student.
After the building was swallowed by the river, classes were discontinued for a long time.
But thanks to the initiative of some local people and the teachers, the school was shifted to the opposite bank of the river. The ‘temporary’ school is now going on in the dyke of the river.
A teacher of the school said, “We are forced to run the school under the sky. It is impossible to accommodate 85 students under the small thatched shade.”
The local MLA, who is from Congress told HT that he doesn’t have too many expectations from the government. “The indifference of the administration has proved that the government thinks the children of the erosion-hit areas don’t have right to education. I am not sure that the problem will be solved,” said Mostaque Alam.