Students from remote Baitadi village brave river to reach school every dayAround 40 students from ward 6 of Sagada village wade through the Nwaghari river to reach Ganesh Secondary School.
Bindu Chand, a 10th grader at Ganesh Secondary School in ward 6 of Sigas Rural Municipality in Baitadi district, has to wade across the Nwaghari river risking her life to go to school and return home. All her clothes get wet while crossing the river. It is her routine to stay the whole day in class with the wet clothes.
“It’s quite difficult during my periods (menstruation) as the sanitary pad gets wet while fording the river. I have to stay in class throughout the day with the wet clothes. I exchange clothes only after reaching home after school,” said Bindu. She complains that she often feels cold and suffers from abdominal pain apparently due to wet clothes.
Around 40 students from ward 6 of Sagada village have no alternative to wading through the river to reach Ganesh Secondary School. School children like Bindu have to risk their lives due to the lack of suspension bridges in the area. A massive flooding of the river had swept away a suspension bridge that linked Bhaunelipatal of Sigas-7 to Pang Babina of Aadarsha Rural Municipality-6 of Doti.
There is a basic school that runs classes up to grade three in Sagada. Ganesh Secondary School, established in 1975, is the nearest school for the students of Sagada settlement to continue their studies.
One or two students cannot ford the river solo due to strong currents. Laxmi Chand, a local from Sagada and a teacher at Ganesh Secondary School, has an additional responsibility to help the students cross the river. She waits until all the students from the village gather on the river bank. Then the students hold each other’s hands and wade through. The students do not go to school in case Laxmi has to take a leave.
“We have to cross the Nwaghari river four times to reach the school. There are bridges in two places while we have to wade through in two other places,” said Laxmi.
According to Laxmi, there is an alternative route to reach the school through Maurabhir trail but it is more perilous. One should not cross the river while going to school through Maurabhir, but the foot trail is narrow, difficult, slippery and scary and it takes half an hour extra to reach the school. Using the river route, it takes one hour from Sagada to reach the Ganesh Secondary School.
According to the locals, two people died after falling off a cliff along Maurabhir trail while three people were swept away by the Nwaghari river as well over the past few years.
“We cannot cross the river one by one. The miss (Laxmi) leads us by holding one another’s hands. If we slip while crossing the river alone we will be dumped into the Seti,” said Anjali BK of grade eight.
The Nwaghari river empties into the Seti river. When the river is flooded, students have no option but to skip school.
“I missed several classes as we could not cross the river due to heavy rains. There is no option but to stay home if it rains heavily causing flooding on the river,” said Misan Chand of grade nine.
The locals of ward No 5, 6 and 7 of Sigas Rural Municipality visit Deura Bazaar of Kedarsyu Rural Municipality of neighbouring Bajhang district for health services and buy essential commodities. More than 250 households of Nwaghar, Sagada and Bagali villages have to cross the Nwaghari river to go to Deura Bazaar.
“A wooden bridge is built every winter, but it is swept away by the floods in monsoon,” said Kalu Singh Saud, the headmaster at Ganesh Secondary School. According to him, a bridge was built four years ago with Rs400,000 provided by the rural municipality, but it was swept away within a year. “We requested the local, provincial and federal governments repeatedly to build a bridge in the area but they have not heeded,” said Kalu Singh.
The rural municipality, however, has a different view. “The technicians suggest that construction of a bridge is not possible in the area as there are cliffs on both sides of the river. We are making preparations to shift the school to Lekam,” said Hari Singh Dhami, the chairman of Sigas Rural Municipality.