For a group of students from Marukottai village in Karnataka, education is a luxury as they have to depend on the mercy of the Cauvery river to cross over to Tamil Nadu in coracles to attend middle and high schools in Hogenakkal.
These 30 children belong to the 60-odd Tamil families that migrated to Marukottai on the bank of Cauvery in the pre-Independence era. Despite the fact that these families settled in Karnataka generations ago, there is no facility for them to get Tamil education, for which they have to come to Hogenakkal. The education of these children is linked to the flow of water in the river as a high inflow invariably means no school for them.
The flow at the best of times is unpredictable and even the best of coracle drivers find it hard to manoeuvre in the current. A coracle driver said, “Nothing has changed in our lives. We settled in Karnataka before the country was divided on linguistic lines. Basic facilities, potable water, electricity and education are luxuries for us. We live like refugees in our own country. Yes, the children take risks for education, but what option do they have?”
It is the hope of a better future that makes them undertake such a risky voyage daily, said M Savithri, a Class 6 student in Hogenakkal middle school. She said, “I will bear any pain to get educated. I want to become an IAS officer, and once I attain my dream, I will work for the betterment of my village and construct a school there.”
Another student, M Amsuraj, said that dreams pushed them to attend schools in TN but their aspirations were at times at the mercy of the river. “When it rains the water level increases significantly making it impossible for us to make the voyage. In August, we did not attend school for over a week,” he said.
Reaching Tamil Nadu is not the end of the road for the students as a journey of over two kilometres through dense forest to the nearest school awaits them. A student said, “We have seen wild boars and elephants many times. We are afraid but we cannot do anything.”
Urging the Tamil Nadu government to set up a Tamil medium school in the village, T Gopal, a resident of Marukottai, said that if a school came up it would end the ordeal these children had to undergo. He said that students from the adjacent villages of Jampurupatti, Alampadi, Gopinatham and Ponkombu would benefit.