BERHAMPUR: Crossing 1 km-long river route on a rickety boat to reach school every day might sound arduous to many children in urban Odisha, but for those in villages under Baliguda block in Kandhamal district it is an everyday reality. Children of many remote villages in the block cross the river daily to reach their school. River Khadagnadi separates 12 villages under Baliguda block from Nuasahi under Ward 3 of Baliguda NAC. The villages on the other side of the river - Landuketa, Gochapada, Jilapada, Bagadi, Indraja, Jarena, Jatabanda, Tilokpanga, Bikangia, Ganipada, Balipadar and Laharaphinga - have a population of at least 5,000 people.
Twenty children from the villages study in Government Project High School at Nuasahi. Although the villages are connected to Baliguda NAC by an all-weather road, one has to cover a distance of more than 20 km to reach there. On the other hand, the NAC is just 1 km away through Khadagnadi river route which is why, children prefer using it every day. In fact, the route is also used by villagers to save time and distance. While depth of the river is hardly three to four feet throughout the year, Khadagnadi swells during monsoon.
Although villagers have been approaching the district administration time and again for construction of a bridge over the river, their plea has fallen on deaf ears. “Accompanying children everyday to their school is not possible on the part of parents which is why, we decided to construct a boat for them with our own funds. Students use this boat to reach their school in Nuasahi,” said Dhada Kanhar, a resident of Landuketa. Although a risky affair to let the children cross the river all by themselves, villagers have no other option.
“Some senior students of Class IX and X row the boat and drop the younger ones on the other side of the river and it takes five boat trips for all of them to reach Nuasahi,” he added. During monsoon when the river swells, either village elders accompany the children to the school or the latter stay back in their houses. “This is risky but we take utmost care while travelling in the boat. We reach the river bank on our cycles and then board the boat to our school. Only four students can get into the boat at one time,” said Subhasmita Malik, a Class X student. Contacted, Baliguda Sub-Collector Sakthya Krishnan KP said he would visit the area soon. He has asked the officials concerned to visit the villages and submit a report on feasibility of construction of a bridge.