Dhalpur: A month after the eviction in Dhalpur area by the Assam government, uncertainty looms large on the future of over a thousand students in the area.

Apart from evicting over 800 families in September, the government has also closed all four schools and eight out of nine Anganwadi centres (Rural Child Care centre) in the Dhalpur area of Assam’s Darrang district.

All these schools and Anganwadi centres (rural child care centres) fall inside the area where the Assam government has started an agricultural project immediately after the eviction over an area of 77000 bighas (25,600 acres).

Out of these four schools, three are Lower Primary schools and one a Middle English (ME) school.

Notably, all these are government schools that got recognised during the 2000s. Each school has a capacity of 150-250 students. The teachers of these schools were appointed by the government through the Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET).

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“My school used to have 132 students. For the last one month, they have not been able to avail themselves of education. All are residing at the campsite. Yesterday, I gave admission to 41 students in the Janakalyan LP School with my own effort,” said Abdul Aziz, Principal of Majrorchuba Primary School.

Abdul Aziz (Head teacher) and Aziron Nessa (Assistant teacher) of Major Chuba Lower Primary School. The school is closed down as it falls under the evicted area.

The school was established in 2004, and it became a government school in 2009. The two teachers teaching in the Majorchuba Lower Primary School have been transferred to a nearby school named Komarchar Primary school.

However, in the middle of the academic sessions, no schools nearby has enough space to provide enrolment to all the students whose schools were closed down by the administration.

“I got my transfer notice on October 9. The Bordolguri Block Office called me and handed me a letter of transfer to Balipara Lower Primary School. What it doesn’t tell me was where would my 165 students go after my school was shut down”, said Hazra Khatun.

Khatun was the Principal of Pub Dhalpur Lower Primary School that falls under Dhalpur 1 village. Right now Khatun is also staying in the relief camp along with her students and their parents.

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Khatun has been able to give admission to 70 of her students in Balipara LP School. However, Balipara LP School cannot hold more students from her previous school.

“I had been teaching them and so I wanted to take them along with me. But no school has the capacity of enrolling all the students. My previous school had four classrooms. The present school has only two classrooms which are already occupied. I somehow stuffed 70 more students. Where will the rest go to study?” she asked.

Khuarghat

Khatun alleged that when she raised this issue of insufficient seats in schools for evicted children in front of the block office of Sipajhar, it told her to “let the students study beneath a tree.”

“An officer told me that they have arranged my transfer to Balipara LP School. The rest of the five teachers teaching in my school have been appointed in town areas. When asked about the future of the students, an officer said “let the students study behind a tree”, she lamented.

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The Pub Dhalpur LP School was established in 2010. Besides Pub Dhalpur, there is one more venture school (non- Provincialised) where 86 students were studying. It is also closed down.

“These 86 students also have nowhere to go to study now,” Khatun said.

Atif Aslam, a 5-year-old student who studies in class 3 of Pub Dhalpur Lower Primary School is not able to go to school since his school was closed down during the eviction. He is eagerly waiting to get an enrolment in another school.

“The principal of his previous school is trying for his admission in another school. But the problem is there are hundreds of students waiting to be enrolled, but there are limited seats in nearby schools. I urge the administration to take initiatives so that our children can continue their studies,” said Mainul Haque, father of Atif Aslam.

The 290 Major Khanda AWC which is now turned into a pigsty under the proposed agricultural project

A week back, All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU), a student organisation representing the minority community students, met the district administration urging it to attach all four schools that fall in the eviction area to another school located in the relief campsite.

However, the administration did not respond to that.

“Apart from lower primary students, the lives of college students are at stake because they are not being allowed to go through their usual route to their institutions. Before the eviction, the usual route was through the present area of the agricultural project which takes them to the Garukhuti. Now they have to walk 7-8 km to reach the main road to go to the college” said Rejaul Karim Sarkar, President of All Assam Minority Students Union.

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The students mostly go to the Garukhuti High school and Garukhuti Higher Secondary Schools, which are two km away. The usual route of communication was through the present Garukhuti Agricultural Project and then reached the port through a boat. The travel time was only 30 minutes or so.

However, the administration closed the movement of the locales through the agricultural project. At present, from the relief camp in Dhalpur, the students have to walk at least 7 km to reach the Garukhuti High School and Garukhuti Higher Secondary School. At least 250 students from the eviction site used to study in these two schools.

“There is no other mode of movement other than walking to reach the Garukhuti High School and Garukhuti Higher Secondary School. The parents are requesting the administration to at least allow the students to use the previous road so that they can continue with their studies,” said Faizur Rahman, a local.

Makeshift shelters

“Incessant rain from the past two days has made it impossible to walk ten kilometres to reach the main road. There are also incidents of assault and snatching of mobile phones on the way,” he claimed.

The Darrang district administration has admitted that there was not enough space in nearby schools to accommodate all the students from the evicted areas of Dhalpur.

Parbhati Thaosen, the Deputy Commissioner of Darrang district, said the district inspector of schools has been directed to chalk out a plan on how to provide formal education to all the students in the area.

“The students are going to be adjusted in the nearby schools. I know there are not enough seats to adjust all the students immediately. However, it’s been only a few days since the schools opened. I have already issued a notice to the Inspector of Schools to solve the issue.” Thaosen said.

Aslam, the 5-year-old student who mostly spends these days hovering around the river with other kids his age, talks about how much he misses going to the school.

“Our schools have been closed for so many days. During the lockdown, I kept asking my father when I was getting back to school. Now the lockdown has lifted, I heard. But now I do not have a school to go to. I want to go to school soon.” said the child.

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