The irony about Independence Day is that every year it gets us into deep thinking that what as a free nation should drive us out of the miseries that entire nation is plagued with. Specially in the rural areas where the students have to attempt suicide just for the lack of facilities in school!
The Independence Day in Chandrapur turned traumatic after four students from a remote residential school in Jivti tehsil of the district attempted suicide soon after the flag-hoisting ceremony on Saturday morning. The students have cited lack of food, other facilities and maths teacher as the reason for taking the extreme step.
Krishna Rathore (19), Premdas Rathore (18), Prafulla Rathore (17) and Pravin Jadhao (18) consumed insecticide at their school Vitthalrao Jadhav Kanishtha Mahavidyalaya from bottles that they were carrying in their pockets. The school authorities rushed them to Rajura, the public healthcare centre in the tehsil from where they were transferred to Chandrapur government hospital. They are now stated to be out of danger.
“They have complained about lack of food and other facilities at their school, including the lack of teachers,” said Sandip Diwan, superintendent of police, Chandrapur. He also said that the students are out of danger and could be discharged from the hospital on Monday. Diwan said that conducting a probe into these allegations against the school is the job of relevant authorities — the social justice department and the school education department.
While lack of facilities and teachers is very common across the government-aided residential schools, this is perhaps the first incident of students attempting to take their life because of these issues. The social justice department offers food-grants to this residential school which is nearly 65 km interior from Chandrapur city. The school mainly caters to VJNT, also known as Banjaras. The aid given to the school by the department is Rs900 per student per month, dna has learnt. The school has a total 205 students in class 11 and 12, of which over 80 are hostellers.
While there is no confirmation whether the school education department initiated any inquiry, the social justice department launched its probe on Sunday and appeared to be in the process of giving “clean chit” to the school. Prasad Kulkarni, assistant commissioner of social justice department, who spearheaded the inquiry, told dna: “We have initiated the probe and have noted down the statements of all hostel students in writing. Except these four pupils, no one complained about food. However, there is no mathematics teacher. But we can’t do anything in this regard as we don’t offer salary grants to them. We just give financial aid for food for students who stay in hostel.”
The president of the school Motiram Pawar and director Panchkala Jadhav couldn’t be contacted. There are over two dozen such residential schools in Chandrapur district and over 200 across the state. They mainly cater to SC and VJNT students and most have same story — lack of infrastructure, facilities and teachers. Activists blame it on “systemic failure” and accuse school education, social justice and tribal welfare departments for apathy towards Dalit kids and spoiling their career.
“Neither social justice department nor the school education department keep a tab on happening in the school. As per the rules, there must be a school management committee in every village, in which representation of panchayat members, parents and school trustees is must to look into issues related to students. Most villages don’t have functional SMCs and that’s why children in these institutes face severe problems,” says Paromita Goswami, a social activist who visited the four students in the hospital.
“Politicians are minting crores in the name of rural and tribal boarding schools, while the children get nothing,” says Kishore Tiwari of the Nagpur-based Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti. Even the Vitthalrao Jadhav College is run by the Congress leader of the same name, claims Tiwari.
Given the deplorable state of the residential schools and also ashramshalas (under tribal welfare department), activists demand that they should be closed down.
“These schools should be closed down and the government should instead invest in opening hostels for poor SC/ST students at the taluka and city levels. They should be enrolled in regular schools so that they can study with children from other background and can be mainstreamed,” added Tiwari.
Efforts to contact school education minister Vinod Tawde, social justice minister Rajkumar Badole and guardian minister of Chandrapur Sudhir Mungantiwar turned futile.
– By Kanchan Srivastava (Sourced from DNA India)