JAGATSINGHPUR: Every morning, children of five villages in Ersama block of the coastal district embark on a dangerous ride to their schools, located on the other side of river Hansua. They travel in rickety boats that pose the threat of capsize even as the construction of a bridge on the river remains pending. There are no upper primary and high schools in the coastal villages of Dhaibar, Kholapa, Japa, Dhobeijungle, Jhatipari and other villages of Japa panchayat. It forces the students to go to neighbouring Ambiki panchayat to study.
The schools in Ambiki panchayat are located six kms from their villages if they take the kutcha road. As the road is muddy and full of potholes, the students prefer the river route despite the dangers as it cuts down the distance by almost half. The boats carrying the children neither have safety certificates nor licence to ply.
Though the villagers have repeatedly urged the district administration and the Circle Inspector of school to build schools in their villages, the authorities have not paid any attention.
“Besides, villagers of the panchayat have been demanding construction of a small bridge over the river for the safety of children, but the district administration is yet to pay heed,” said Nrusingha Pradhan, a local.
During monsoon when the river swells, children have no choice but to stay at home as parents prefer not to send them to school putting their lives at risk. In May, a rickety boat carrying 20 persons capsized in Bilkuakhai river and five persons including four children drowned. The boat did not have an experienced boatman and was oared by a person whom the locals did not know. The district administration had then ordered for checking the licences of all the boats. But the exercise is yet to begin.
A village head, Ramshankar Das, said as the children are reluctant to walk for six kms on the highly damaged road, they travel on boats in spite of the threat of drowning. “We are sending our children to these schools out of compulsion. The School and Mass Education Department authorities will not build schools in our villages overnight, but what the Government can do is either build a small bridge over the river or repair the road,” he said.
Ersama Block Development Officer Subodha Acharya said illegal boat service has been stopped from Kanakan to Khuranth on river Hansua following the boat mishap in May. “But so far, we have not received any complaint about boats plying from Japa to Ambiki without licence. We will inquire into the issue,” he said.