Reported by Santosh Jagdev
Bhubaneswar, Apr 11:
The rest of Odisha thinks those living in the state capital are a privileged lot. But try telling that to the people of Chudangagada village near Nandankanan on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, who have been running from pillar to post for construction of a proper building for the lone primary school in the vicinity.
At first sight, one can easily mistake what goes for the ‘Chudanga Prathamik Prakalpa Vidyalaya’ for a long abandoned warehouse. With a rusting tin roof, missing doors and windows and plenty of opening in the ‘roof’ to let sunlight (perhaps to make up for the lack of electricity) and rain in, a school is the last thing it looks like. Just about the only sign that it is indeed a school is the signboard placed where there should have been a window.
The villagers say construction of a proper school building was sanctioned ten months back, but work on it has not moved an inch since then.
“We have repeatedly drawn the attention of the gram panchayat, the BDO, the MLA and MP about the dilapidated condition of the school and staff shortage and urged them to do something about it, but to no avail,” said a teacher in the school. In the absence of even basic amenities, the teachers are doing the best they can under the circumstances, he said.
Interestingly, the sarpanch, Prashant Routray would have one believe that the elections came in the way of the construction of the school building notwithstanding the fact that it had been planned nearly a year ago. “We will construct the building soon after the elections,” he told OST.
Opened on March 23, 2011, the school, which has classes from first to fifth standard, runs with only two teachers for the thirty students. All that it has by way of infrastructure is a black board, an old creaking table and a chair. The school makes do with sunlight piercing through the wide open ‘roof’ in the absence of electricity. In the circumstances, toilets and drinking water facilities are ‘luxuries’ that would perhaps be too much to ask for.
Even with all its deficiencies, the school has come after a long struggle. “Earlier, our children had to travel seven kilometres to the Jhunjhunwalah Vidyapeeth since there was no school here. We had to wage a long and hard battle to get a school. But look at what we have got for a school,” said a rueful Satrughan Parida, pointing to the dilapidated condition of the building.
Besides sunrays, the open roof also lets in rain during the monsoons, flooding the inside of the ‘school’ in the process. No wonder students enjoy unscheduled holidays for an average of 15 days every month during the rainy season.
Like everything else about the school, the mid day meal scheme too is a frugal affair here. “The school gets eggs, rice and pulses under the mid-day meal scheme, but these items are not regularly distributed to the children. Meals are served to them for only a few days in a month while eggs are given just once a month,” said Ramachandra Tudu, a resident of the village.
Undeterred by the apathy of the administration, the villagers are hoping that the fate of the school would change after the elections.
“Many party candidates have approached us this time and have promised to fulfil our demand for a new school building. Let’s hope they keep their word,” said Biranchi, another villager.
There is little else that the villagers can do except to hope because that is what these hapless people live on.