CHENNAI: Classroom sessions in schools were suspended over a year ago and students await a chance to meet their friends again. However, the tribal kids of Pazhaveli village in Chengalpet district are anxiously waiting for another announcement. A bus through their village is all their hearts desire now. With the nearest school 7 km away and no public transport facility, they had to walk back and forth 14 km every day. Even worse, parents of the younger children walked total 28 km daily, as they had to drop and pick up their wards.
The State has evolved to a digital and online mode of education. But, unlike many other hamlets, residents of Pazhaveli do not lament over unavailability of internet or computers. With their cries for even basic amenities, including electricity connection, always going unheard, the demand for a computer would die down in laughter at the hamlet itself. But the children still dream of cheering loud among friends in a bus and getting down near their schools.
“We used to walk total 14 km everyday between our home and school. We would always reach late to school, and be worn out when we return home,” says Kavitha, an Irular tribal girl studying in Class 7. The tribals live in a small hamlet tucked deep inside woods, beneath a hill, and around 80 km from Chennai.
Kavitha along with friends climb up the hill and get down on the other side at Venbakkam to reach the school. Mothers here have to drop and pick up the young children from school, and also manage the household chores.
“We have to do all this carrying our little ones. The men leave for daily labour and so we have to take care of all the children,” says Kavitha’s mother Pavithra, another girl from the tribal hamlet studying Class 7, rues, “I am very tired by the time I return home. It is very hard to study or do our homework at that time. It would do us a world of good if we had a free transport service. We cannot afford to take rides on autos.”
More than the huge hill and the woods, the children crossing a busy bypass road on their way to school worries the mothers. “There is no pedestrian crossing or signal post. Vehicles speed past every second and it takes 40 minutes for all the children to cross the bypass,” Kuttyma, mother of a Class 3 girl said.