Absence of bridge puts students’ lives at riskSeven students have lost their lives crossing the river in the past three years, say locals.
Children of Swamibas, Kusumtara, Batule, Haukhola and Ryang in Kalimati Gaupalika-7 have been crossing the Babai River all their lives to get to school. Secondary-level students from all these villages attend Nepal Rastriya Secondary School in Ghuiyabari since there is no other secondary school in the area.
The water level in the Babai river is high even during the dry season, says Somlal Basnet, a grade nine student. The river becomes more dangerous during the rainy season but the students can’t afford to miss school so they wade through the water in the shallow part of the river and make their way to school.
According to Basnet, seven students from his school have lost their lives while crossing the river in the last three years.
“During the rainy season, my friends and I cross the river with fear in our hearts. We are compelled to cross the river since we can’t afford to miss school for three months during the rainy season,” said Basnet.
An old suspension bridge connects Hattidunga and Ryang villages but it takes two hours for students from the five villages to reach their school via Hattidunga.
“Students have to face several problems while crossing the river. The water comes to our waist, wetting our clothes and books. The current is so fast in some places in the river that sometimes we lose our footing,” said Ratna Gharti, a grade 10 student. “We always cross the river in groups to avoid being washed away by the current.”
According to Khadanand Bohara, a local resident of Ryang whose nephew and niece attend Nepal Rastriya Secondary School, guardians worry about their children since the journey to the school is dangerous.
“Most of them reluctantly send their wards to school since they don’t want to lose the only opportunity for their children to pursue higher studies,” said Bohara. “It breaks my heart watching children risk their lives crossing the river to study. We all wait for them to get home in the evening.”
According to Laxmi Dangi, principal of Nepal Rastra Secondary School, out of 410 students in the school, 200 are from the five villages.
“They risk their lives every day to come to school. There are some children in the villages who are deprived of education because of a lack of bridges,” said Dangi. “If a bridge was built over the Babai River, children would not have to risk their lives to cross the river every day.”
The locals of the area say that despite their repeated requests for a bridge over the Babai River, the authorities have remained aloof to their problems.
“It’s not only students who are suffering because of a lack of bridges. We are stuck in the village during medical emergencies since it’s impossible to cross the river with a patient,” said Ratna Bahadur Rana, a local of Hattidunga.
“The rural municipality has been repeatedly requesting the state and federal governments for the construction of a bridge over the Babai River but we haven’t heard from them yet,” said Nayan Singh Rana, ward chairman of Kalimati Rural Municipality.