Students in a Sarlahi school forced to sit on cold floors as mercury dip grips TaraiIn many ways, Janata Basic School is emblematic of the condition of community schools across the country.
A sharp dip in the temperature has severely affected daily life in the Madhes. The effect is most pointed towards those who have little infrastructure to battle the cold. The cold has also affected students, many of whom say they don’t want to go to school because they have to sit down on a cold floor to study.
Saroj Yadav, a second grader at the Janata Basic School, said he doesn’t want to go to school because he has to sit down on the cold floor, as there are no desks or benches in his classroom. “But I have to go to the school because my parents pressure me to,” Yadav says.
A total of 120 students in the basic school have had to study sitting on the cold floor. The school lacks enough infrastructure and the furniture meant for second and third graders in the school is used by secondary-level students (the basic school upgraded to secondary level starting this year.)
As a result, the number of students attending school has been on the decline. Those who attend the school told the Post they are here only because their parents have forced them to.
“We have no problem sitting on the floor during the summer, but during the winter it gets tough,” said Yadav, the second grader. “We have repeatedly informed the teachers, requesting them to bring in benches, but we haven’t gotten them yet. Many of my friends have stopped coming to school altogether. I don’t want to come either.”
Sangita Kumari, who studies in grade three, said that she and her classmates are making do with the jute sacs and mattresses they bring from their homes to sit on. “But many of my friends don’t wear warm clothes and don’t bring mattresses either, so it must be very hard for them,” she said.
According to the school's record, of the total 120 students in two grades, only sixty regularly come to school these days.
Meanwhile, some guardians have said they are keeping their children from attending school. “For us the health of our children is more important than their studies,” said Rajib Sah, a local guardian, adding that the school administration has paid no heed to solve the problem.
“My child studies in grade two, and once he fell sick because of the cold, and we had to spend over Rs1,000,” Sah said. “So I have decided not to send him to school until the school manages the furniture.”
Rambabu Yadav, principal of the school, said that the school has been struggling financially to manage the furniture. Despite the fact that the school is near the Rural Municipality office, the school hasn’t attracted the concern of local representatives.
In many ways, Janata is emblematic of the condition of community schools across the country. It not just lacks proper infrastructure but also manpower. For a secondary school that has over 500 students, there are only nine teachers.
Principal Yadav lamented the local unit’s indifference in solving the crisis the school is reeling under. “When the school added more classes, the rural municipality said it would provide us budget for the salary of two teachers, but it hasn’t yet,” he said. “Everybody, including the chair, deputy chair of the ward and rural municipality, knows the poor condition of the school but nobody has extended any help.”
But Ramayodhya Yadav, chair of the rural municipality, said that teachers are
not willing to come to Basbariya, where the school is located. “I am aware of the school’s condition and I am trying to equip the school with furniture and manpower,” he said. “But teachers don’t want to come here because of the remoteness of the location, and there’s a lack of budgets as well. But we are trying.”