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food for thought

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 Aug 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Even as Assam continues to reel from flood havoc in 28 districts, schoolgoing children in rural areas are faced with a crippling problem. Over 2,600 schools are still under water, while many others have been washed away. Latest figures furnished by the Sarba Siksha Mission paint a dismal picture in district after district. The worst affected have been Barpeta, Morigaon, Jorhat, Golaghat and Dibrugarh districts. As if that is not enough, the State government has set up camps for flood victims in over 300 schools. Since the rains are not over yet, the refugees could be lodged in the camps for over a month before they can safely go back. Needless to say, teaching in these schools will be nil. These are figures for provincialized schools under the government; the actual numbers of flood-hit schools would be much larger if venture schools are also included. Even after floods recede, the schools will need to be repaired so as not to pose dangers to young pupils. If we but reflect for a moment, there is nothing unique about this sad situation. It keeps repeating year after year in a State that has become synonymous with floods. The poor bear the brunt of it, particularly their young. Their studies are hit just at take-off stage in the academic year. Even in the best of years, getting textbooks on time has been a joke. In a bad year, even existing textbooks are damaged badly. A few days back, some newspapers published a photograph of hundreds of damaged textbooks spread out in front of a school to dry out. For schools situated near rivers, the threat will not be over soon, as erosion will continue. The rest of the country, including the powers-be in New Delhi, hardly comprehend the fact that erosion in Assam is a bigger destroyer than floods. Many poor families rendered homeless are living permanently on embankments. In turn, these embankments may be long past their endurance limits, as are most embankments in the State. Over long years, these embankments have been supposedly maintained, but only on paper! Thousands of crores sent by the Centre for such flood prevention measures have ended up enriching those in charge of the works. The situation is so bad that the chief minister is now talking of setting up a vigilance committee to oversee flood works expenditure. Despite such odds, those few from the villages who still mage to come on top in board examitions are feted by the State. But the far larger numbers of rural students in all classes need regular support, if Assam is not to keep losing precious human capital.

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