Friday, 30 September 2011

Education takes a back seat in flood affected areas of Orissa

Jajpur: Piles of debris including bricks, bits of wood, concrete and broken household goods are becoming visible throughout flood-ravaged areas of Jajpur district, as the floodwater begins to recede.
In his village Ratnagiri , Saroj Das (13), with his parents and three siblings, rummaged through a pile of destroyed belongings in their house. The structure itself is badly damaged but still partially intact.
"I am looking for my school text books and pencils," said Saroj, gazing at a few drenched, mud-stained pages in his hand. "If I can find even a few things I may be able to go back to school".
Saroj ' s father, Ramesh , who lost two cows, and his paddy crops in the floods, told : "I dont think we will be able to send the children back to their private school. It is impossible now to raise money for fees, books and uniforms - and I need their help to work the land."
"It could be months before affected children can get back to school. This is both because of the impact of floods on families and on the school buildings. Those in better shape are being used as relief camps and may not be vacant for a long time," , said the headmaster of a school in flood affected area asked not to be named.
The upper primary school building in village Bari looking mauled bears testimony to the pronouncement. The flood waters receded, leaving the school building completely unusable. "People are struggling with bare necessities. Children are not coming to school," said Bhaskar Das a teacher of the school.
"Rebuilding primary and upper primary schools and high schools and re-equipping them with teaching-learning material will cost crores of rupees. The authority directed the district education department to submit the list of the damaged and partly damaged schools to the district administration within a week", said Anil Samal the district collector of Jajpur.
"About 220 primary schools and 50 high schools have been damaged in the flood as a result the fate of at least 45,000 students is now at stake. There are many obstacles before schooling can resume. A very large proportion of families have been impoverished and their children have been helping them in supplementing their income", said Paresh Das the vice-president of the district teachers' association.
In many villages, people are still living on embankments and schooling remains a dream for people struggling with the problems of shelter, food and water. Children have been trying to help. The sight of children catching fish sometimes in their school uniform is not uncommon in the flood affected areas.
"However two weeks on from the worst floods in the district there is little sign that the thousands of school-age kids who lost their villages are any nearer to going back to lessons", said Santosh Das of Bari.
"I look at all this dirt , trash and I wonder when can school start", said Ashok Jena a class V student of Kaimati Primary school of village Kaimati under the worst flood hit Bari block as he gazed at his transformed school rooms and verandas now littered with cow dung , debris and trash . Since more than two weeks, some villagers converted the school rooms as their cattle sheds and tethered cattle on the verandas of the school.

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