Ludhiana School bells ring again months after roof collapse, but long road ahead of injured teachers - Hindustan Times

Ludhiana School bells ring again months after roof collapse, but long road ahead of injured teachers

ByDinkle Popli, Ludhiana
Nov 30, 2023 01:21 PM IST

Of the 627 students at the school in Baddowal, Ludhiana, 465 resume classes; primary and high school students will be adjusted in a nearby school

Three months after the roof collapse incident at the Baddowal government school that claimed a teacher’s life and left three others critically injured, the school has finally reopened its doors to 465 Class 9 to 12 students.

Students attend a special prayer before the reopening of the school in Baddowal, Ludhiana. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)
Students attend a special prayer before the reopening of the school in Baddowal, Ludhiana. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)

The students had been attending classes at a nearby gurdwara, where they were being taught in a common hall with four other classes in the absence of proper infrastructure like desks and blackboards.

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Expressing joy, a Class 9 student Khushi stated, “Stepping into school has never felt as special as it does today. Finally, we will get to sit at a proper desk instead of the common halls, ride school buses instead of having to walk all the way to the gurdwara.”

To mark the school’s restart, a special prayer meeting was held for the students and faculty.

Amid the joy and frenzy of students returning to the school classrooms and halls, however, stood the fenced section of the building where the roof had collapsed — serving as a reminder of the tragedy.

A section of the parents, faculty members and a few students recalled the harrowing August 22 incident, with a teacher not wishing to be named saying, “The building, though now fenced, is the first thing you notice as you enter the school. Subconsciously, it triggers painful memories, reminding me of our colleague who passed away and those who sustained severe injuries. The trauma will take a lot of time to heal for us, students, parents, and the community in general.”

Meanwhile, school principal Munila Arora emphasised on the need to move forward with positivity mentioned that a total of 11 sections will now attend classes in two separate buildings constructed over the last four years. Fencing has been set up based on the recommendations of the inquiry panel, preventing students from entering the restricted area.

“Of the total 627 students, 465 will now resume their classes at school, while the rest of the primary and high school students will attend classes in the adjacent government primary school. The tragedy that struck us is hard to overcome, but as a collective community, we need to help our students and faculty overcome the fear and trauma,” she added.

Living in distress

As schoolwork returns to normality, three teachers who sustained severe injuries during the roof collapse find themselves stuck in emotional, financial and physical distress, constantly battling their injuries without any assistance from the school or the government.

Sukhjit Kaur, a 29-year-old temporary teacher at the school, continues to struggle with walking, and her memory is deteriorating daily. Kaur told HT that she now keeps a pen and notebook at hand as she often forgets the tasks she is working on.

Recounting her ordeal, she said, “Since the incident, I have only received two calls from the school — one about the whereabouts of keys and the other regarding my August salary. After that, there has been no contact. Apart from hospital expenses, I have received no assistance whatsoever. No salary, no paid leave, no financial support for buying medicine — nothing at all.”

“In fact, no one has checked on me. With each doctor’s consultation costing 800 and the substantial cost of medicine, our finances have been completely drained,” she added.

Indu Rani, another teacher and survivor of the roof collapse yearns to lift her four-year-old, but unfortunately, her physical condition has weakened to the point where even prolonged sitting causes excruciating pain in her chest, head and knees. She has developed type two diabetes after months of taking steroid-based medicine.

Describing the impact of the incident on her life, her husband, Karun Aggarwal, lamented, “She is paying for someone else’s mistake. Her life has changed in so many ways. She cannot travel or walk by herself. However, the government has not provided any sort of support. She has exhausted all her medical and casual leaves and is now on unpaid leave.”

Aggarwal said the family has spent close to 2 lakh on her treatment reiterating that the government only covered the 45,000 hospital bill.

Narinderjit Kaur, another survivor dealing with various injuries, is undergoing medication and physiotherapy to regain her physical fitness. Her mother, speaking to HT, mentioned, “We have submitted requests to the education department for special leaves and have sent her medical bills, but they have not been approved yet.”

Refraining to comment on the assistance, deputy district education officer Jasvinder Singh Virk said, “We have submitted a thorough report with the details of the injured teachers to the higher authorities and the final decision is in their hands.”

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