Since the past five years, the dilapidated school in Chhattisgarh, is on the verge of collapse, posing a threat to students’ lives. But the neglect continues.
Seema, a bright 11-year-old student, aspires to be a doctor but fears for her life every day that she attends the government middle school. "The school might fall. It is not repaired," she says. She is concerned about her safety and that of the other 87 students who study in the dilapidated school in Chotiguda, a village in the Raipur district of Chhattisgarh. The students and their parents have been requesting the school authorities and government officials to repair the buildings and construct new buildings for more than five years, but their requests fall on deaf, apathetic ears.
"Ceiling of a room collapsed during the last monsoon during class. A girl barely made it alive,"
The school in question seems straight out of an earthquake-ravaged nightmare: the ceilings slump low, the plaster has peeled off exposing the metal rods beneath. "It is a disaster in waiting," exclaims Rajesh Gupta, a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent who reported on the issue. Rajesh had previously seen this school almost a year back, while on a field visit but had not taken the matter up, thinking the administration will surely avert an impending disaster. But he decided to take up the issue, as the situation only worsened in the past year. "Ceiling of a room collapsed during the last monsoon during class. A girl barely made it alive," says Rajesh. Since the incident, classes are mostly conducted in the open to avoid any further mishaps. However, the parents have taken objection to such make-shift arrangements, preferring to not send their children to school at all than to put their lives in danger. "I often worry about the safety of our children," says Phirsingh Sarthi, a parent. The inadequate number of rooms in the school also force children of two different grades to study together, hampering their curriculum and progress.
The sad thing is that just right next to the dilapidated school, lies a half-constructed structure which was supposed to be a new building for the school. However, the construction lies incomplete since the past three years as the previous headmaster of the school was suspended for being corrupt. Since his departure, a new headmaster has been appointed but he too seems least concerned about the impending danger. "We have told our headmaster to build us a new school. He keeps saying 'Okay, I'll get it done.'" The sarpanch of the village, along with all the parents, have written applications to the Block Education Officer, who, under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan, is the authority responsible for getting the work started. Rajesh has also requested on the behalf of the community in March 2017. "The Sarpnach had submitted a written application to the Education Minister in the past," says Rajesh. But as in the past, silence is the only reply they get in return.
While our government keeps emphasising on better education for the country's children, the village of Chotiguda has children who are already aiming for a good education. According to Rajesh, most of the children of this village value education and have completed their Bachelor and Masters degrees. "For example, Seema's elder sister is an MA student. She is Seema's inspiration to study further," states Rajesh. If the Chotiguda school crumbles (which it will eventually) the children will have to commute 4 km to the nearest school. Lack of access to schools is a recognised deterrent to education and is well-recognised by the RTE Act, which has made specific provisions for the same.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan also has clear guidelines for improvement of school facilities and other civil works. The district administration's inaction is putting the children's future in jeopardy. Why is the district putting the well-being of 88 students in the line of danger? "The land was bought by NTPC Pvt Ltd a few years back. They propose to start mining in that area in the next ten years," says Rajesh. According to him, the locals suspect that neglect of the school is because of the proposed opencast-cum-underground coal mine in the area, in the next 7-10 years. They think the lack of facilities is to force the villagers to relocate without paying for rehabilitation.Would the project change the lives of the local communities?
"These children will lose a chance to better their lives if they aren't educated. Without their fields, they will be forced to become labourers in the coal mines which will soon be here"
The government always claims that the establishment of the coal mine would bring jobs to local people. But to qualify for those jobs, the young people in the area need education. All the students belong to agricultural families and are first-generation learners. "These children will lose a chance to better their lives if they aren't educated. Without their fields, they will be forced to become labourers in the coal mines which will soon be here," warns Rajesh.
Rajesh, along with the parents and the village head is going to meet the district block education officer Mr V.N Nayak by May-end to demand that the construction of the half-constructed school buildings be resumed again.
You too can join their cause by calling him on +91-9425571894 and request him to act on their long-standing demands regarding better school infrastructure.
In the 8th episode, we will see how gas connections were provided to more than 100 BPL families with the support from our community correspondents.