Come hell or high water, nothing can stop this Odisha teacher from reaching school
49-year-old Samal has been teaching since 2008 as a Ganasikshyak-- one of the thousands of contractual teachers appointed by Odisha school and mass education department in early 2000-- and her teaching routine involves wading through the swollen Sapua river in monsoons, every day.Updated: Sep 11, 2019 23:16 IST
A swollen river has failed to deter school teacher Binodini Samal from reporting to her teaching duties at the Rathiapala primary school in Dhenkanal district of Odisha for the last 11 years or so.
49-year-old Samal has been teaching since 2008 as a Ganasikshyak-- one of the thousands of contractual teachers appointed by Odisha school and mass education department in early 2000-- and her teaching routine involves wading through the swollen Sapua river in monsoon, every day.
“For me, work matters more than anything else. What would I do sitting at home,” said Samal, whose first salary as a Ganasikhyak was mere Rs 1,700 and which has now reached Rs 7,000 a month. Two days ago, the photos of Samal crossing the gushing river with water up to her neck had gone viral on Facebook.
The Rathiapala primary school, were Samal teaches, has 53 students and is located across Sapua river about three km away from her home in Jaripal village of Hindol block in Dhenkanal district. A bridge was proposed to be built across the 40-metre breadth of the river some years ago, but it is yet to materialise.
So every day, Samal and school headmistress Kananbala Mishra, have to reach the school negotiating Sapua. Though it is mostly dry in summers, in the rainy season and post-monsoon season, it is tricky. During the monsoon, the headmistress and students may sometimes fail to make it to the school due to the raging river, but not Samal.
“I always keep a spare set of saree, petticoat and blouse in school almirah. While crossing the river, I keep my mobile phone and other necessary items in a plastic bag and keep it overhead while swimming through the river. I change into the school uniform of pink saree after reaching school all wet and soggy. I repeat the routine while going home. Even though I have fallen sick sometimes, I have never taken a day off,” said Samal, who teaches students of classes 1-3.
Though she is a good swimmer, she has been close to getting washed away on several occasions. “Two years ago, I was thrown off-balance by the river current and drifted away for some time till I found solid ground. That day my vanity bag was completely wet,” she said.
Samal is not married and stays with her brother and sister-in-law, who don’t approve of her swimming through the river. “I don’t tell them about the risks I have to undertake,” she said.
Damodar Pradhan, a local youth leader of Hindol said Samal has been doing what no male teacher can even dare. “In our area, people know that students may miss school but not Binodini madam. She should be given special award just for her devotion and total commitment to her duty,” said Pradhan.
But all the hard work has not been enough to get her service regularised, which should have been done in 2016 after 8 years of her service. “I should have been getting a monthly salary of Rs 27,000 for the last 3 years, but I am yet to get it,” she says.
Dhenkanal district collector Bhumesh Behera said he was not aware of the difficulties faced by the school teacher and would seek details.