By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, Sept 14: All government secondary schools in Assam will soon be declared tobacco-free zones. This is being achieved due to the active persuasion of the matter by the Assam State Education department.
This mission to make schools tobacco-free in the state is being pursued by Healis Seksaria Institute for Public Health, Education Department and Dr B Barooah Cancer Institute, in association with Tata Trusts.
There are 4,316 government secondary schools in the state. Out of these, all government secondary schools in the districts of Lakhimpur, Baksa, Tinsukia, Udalguri, Sonitpur, Golaghat, Goalpara and Bongaigaon have been reported to be Tobacco-free Educatiol Institutions (TFEI), as per the submissions made by school inspectors to the Secondary Education Department (Rastriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan). The other districts are also working towards achieving it. This mission to make all schools tobacco-free was launched in the state when the Secretary for Secondary Education, Ramesh Chand Jain. He had issued instructions on April 26, 2016, to all school inspectors to this effect. As a follow-up measure, reminders for compliance were sent to all schools by the Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RMSA) through a centralized SMS service. Secretary Ramesh Chand Jain opines that educatiol institutes must be tobacco-free to ensure an atmosphere for imparting quality education. “That is why I have accorded priority to this endeavour. Sustained efforts have been leading to positive results in this respect. The instructions also included a set of questions for the school principal. The school principals have now started sending declarations that their institute is tobacco-free to the school inspectors, which are now being forwarded to the RMSA office,” he said.
On an average, 140 children start tobacco consumption on a daily basis in the state. The tiol average is 5,500 children per day. As many as 39.4% people in Assam are addicted to tobacco.
Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal is himself seized of the matter and is concerned about checking tobacco use. Participating in a programme for ‘Tobacco-free Assam’ in the Assam Legislative Assembly premise recently, Sonowal urged the citizens to be alert and vigilant to check tobacco use in society. Every individual has his responsibility towards creating a healthy society for the future generations, he said.
The school inspector of Lakhimpur district, Prasanta Bora, said all 302 secondary schools in the district have enforced TFEI in its entirety. Sharing the credit with his entire team for this achievement, Bora pointed that all schools receive an annual grant of Rs 75,000. They have requested all school principals to use a part of this money for success of the tobacco-free mission.
“I am happy to inform that the school principals compiled speedily and sent us declaration letters, along with relevant photographs. All secondary schools in Lakhimpur are tobacco-free now. This is a very positive development for the entire society,” Tinsukia district consultant Linuma Gogoi said after receiving the instruction from the higher authorities, a meeting of all school principals was convened, where it was explained to them in details how to achieve a tobacco-free institute and what are the benefits of it. Ninety secondary schools in the district have been declared tobacco-free so far. Ms Gogoi said the results have been so far-reaching that delegates attending the departmental meetings have also stopped chewing betel nut, paan and other tobacco products during the meetings. As many as 78 secondary schools in Bongaigaon, 189 in Baksa, 79 in Udalguri, 197 in Sonitpur and 120 in Goalpara have been declared tobacco-free zones.