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School beyond barbed wires

School beyond barbed wires

Author: Our Correspondent
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: December 28, 2003
URL: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1031228/asp/bengal/story_2727004.asp

When the government is working overtime to push the state's literacy rate up to 80 per cent, 450 children have not been able to attend school since the pujas for no fault of theirs.

The way to Natungram- Purbapara Primary School in Katwa, 180 km from Calcutta, has been fenced off with bamboo poles and barbed wire.

The students used to take the path through a paddy field to reach the school, more than 30 years old. That was the only approach to the school building.

Classes have now been suspended. The students come to the approachway every day, the teachers register their attendance and send them home.

"What can we do? It is impossible for us to take classes in the open. So we have decided to suspend classes till the problem is solved," said Tapan Guha, the headmaster.

Villagers alleged that the fence was erected at the behest of local CPM leaders who wanted to avenge the party's defeat in the panchayat polls at the hands of the Congress. "The CPM wants to take revenge by creating stumbling blocks before the Congress-led Khajurdihi gram panchayat. If the students cannot go to school, the panchayat authorities will be discredited," said a villager.

The president of the district primary school council, Saidul Haq, admitted that the school was not functioning since the Puja vacation. "The owner of the land, used by the students and teachers to reach the school, is not agreeing to spare the path for the use of the school. That is the only way to reach the school. So the four teachers are taking attendance outside the school campus," he said.

Haq has sought the intervention of the district administration. Katwa subdivisional officer Subir Chatterjee said he was trying his best. "I have asked the block development officer to ensure that the problem is solved in the next 10 days," he said.

Sources in the Burdwan administration said if students are not allowed to use the path within 10 days, the land will be acquired and a permanent route to the school made.

The owner of the land, Mohammad Sheikh, a CPM worker, said there was no politics. He fenced off his land to protect his crops. "I may be a CPM worker but I fenced off the land because the students could destroy my crops," he said.

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