India

Schooling sputtering to a start in flood-affected districts of Bihar

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF India/2004
A partially destroyed school is unusable.

By Anupama Srivastava

Bihar State, India, 27, September – In the primary school of the village of Olipur, there is a couplet written on a wall. The words describe the terrible floods that wreaked havoc on countries in South Asia earlier this summer.  It reads: “Baadh chali aati har saal/Jeevan kar deti badhaal” (Floods visit us every year and leave life in disarray).

This school was forced to close when floodwaters flowed over the village in August. When the water receded, it left the school building unusable. However, classes did begin again a week ago – under a tree, since the school building has not been repaired.

Parts of both India and Bangladesh continue to be affected by the aftermath of this year’s severe floods, which forced millions from their homes, damaged or destroyed thousands of municipal buildings, schools and homes, and devastated precious crops. Although the water is now receding, towns and cities in South Asia are still recovering.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF India/2004
Children of Bihar are forced to study outside after schools are damaged or destroyed.

Unprecedented damage to schools
 
“People are struggling with bare necessities. Children are not coming to school,” says Chandrika Rai, the local school teacher in Olipur. He only has 10 of his 143 students attending the outdoor classes.

But soon even those children will be without a teacher, as he will leave in a few days to prepare the electoral rolls. Government school teachers are required by law to perform several election- related duties.

At the best of times, the number of teaching days provided to students in Bihar’s schools is a cause for concern. However, this year’s flood has reversed recent progress, by causing unprecedented damage to school buildings.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF India/2004
Many teachers, like this one, will have to leave the classroom to work on preparations for upcoming elections.

The state government has determined that more than 43,000 schoolrooms in primary schools have been damaged or destroyed. Rebuilding primary schools and re-equipping them with teaching and learning materials will cost the state Rs. 160.8 crore (US$34 million).

The state has a total of 1,229 secondary schools. Assessments indicate that the number of ‘fully damaged’ schools is 166, and there are 427 partially damaged schools. The cost of repair and renovation for secondary schools, say Government estimates, will be Rs 28.77 crore (US$6 million).

Most of the 19 districts in Bihar affected by floods this year are still waterlogged. Low-lying areas remain submerged, and a very large number of people are still living on embankments.
Even as the water gradually recedes, and people move back into their houses, it is not certain how long it will take before these schools will reopen.

And with state elections less than six months away, regular teachers will be once again taken out of classrooms to perform election-related duties. Given the extensive damage to schools and the destruction or damage to basic infrastructure and housing, it looks like it will be a long time before classrooms in Bihar are full again.


 

 

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