Assam: Elephant attacks disrupt children's education

Guwahati: Elephant attacks have forced parents to stop sending their children to Kasibari Kochpara L.P. School in Goalpara district.

Due to the increasing conflict, attendance of school students has reduced by almost 50%. The total number of students has decreased from over 60 to 26.

According to the school head teacher, Munurani Sarker, and SMC president Namita Koch, wild elephants used to rest during the day in this area and frequently roamed in and out of the forest reserve.

“Parents are no longer allowing their children to attend the school out of fear,” she says.

The school was established in 1981. Elephants have been causing damage to the school premises since 2018. The school building has been damaged eleven times from 2018 to 2023, with elephants barging in to devour rice, lentils, salt, vegetables, and other food stored in the kitchen for mid-day meals. Besides the kitchen, classroom walls were also damaged.

The headmistress reported three instances of elephants entering the school during mid-day meals, but teachers saved the children and themselves. Aaranyak, with local community support, installed a single-strand solar fence, raising hopes for improved safety.

The solar fence was installed by the Aaranyak team led by Anjan Baruah, including Ripunjoy Nath and Rupam Gayary, and was supported by the Kasibari-Koachpara local community.

“Elephant attacks have not only caused hardship to a large number of people in Assam; it has also disrupted the education of young children in some of the hotspots where wild elephants tend to force their way into school premises, posing a threat to the property and the lives of students,” a statement by Aaranyak says.

The situation is very similar at 331 No.2 Nonke Sonajuli L.P. School, Revenue Village No. 2 at Sonajuli under Khairabari Educational Block in Udalguri District, with support from SBI Foundation.

Nonke Sonai L.P. School, established in 1962, is situated close to the Indo-Bhutan boundary. It is staffed with three teachers and two cooks. Wild elephants have been attempting to break the school building every year on several occasions during the last five years. However, due to proper vigilance by villagers, elephants could not damage it. Last year, wild elephants came to the school again, damaged the building, and devoured the rice and other foodstuffs meant for mid-day meals stored in the kitchen.

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The school has 30 Assamese-medium students and 25 Bodo-medium students. An Anganwadi center with 30 children attached to this school has also been protected by the fence installed by Aaranyak, which is expected to keep wild elephants off the school campus. It has helped facilitate education for 85 children and was facilitated by the solar fence.

The Aaranyak team, led by Anjan Baruah, and comprising Dibakar Nayak, Rupam Gayary, and Bikash Tossa, took the initiative to install a solar-powered fence in that school on October 19. The president of the School Management Committee (SMC), Janardan Gayary, the headmaster of the school, Bibindra Basumatary, and some local youths helped Aaranyak complete the installation work.

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