Unfit bus threatens to put the brakes on tribal kids’ studies
An undying love for studies. This is the lone reason why scores of students hailing from a remote tribal settlement in Kottur take the arduous 75-km two-way bus trip via jungle roads to reach the Vlavatti Government Tribal School in the capital daily.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An undying love for studies. This is the lone reason why scores of students hailing from a remote tribal settlement in Kottur take the arduous 75-km two-way bus trip via jungle roads to reach the Vlavatti Government Tribal School in the capital daily.
For the children, their school is an entirely different world and a welcome break from monotony. Of course, the free noon meal is an additional attraction for the students whose parents eke out a living by gathering forest produce.
However, their love and enthusiasm may not be enough to ensure their continued studies as the bus which takes them through the serpentine roads to and from school may not be fit to do so for long.
Every morning, the children eagerly await the arrival of the bus which was bought using the MLA fund and is now showing signs of ageing. The school authorities are finding it difficult to keep the vehicle running on a daily basis. Of the 93 students studying in the school, 58 are in the lower primary section while the rest are in kindergarten. Of the 58 lower primary students, 33 hail from poor and very remote tribal settlements.
“The government allocates `400 a month for the tribal students. But their expenses far exceed the allocation. The bus’ fuel expense itself comes to around `12,000 a month. On most months, the teachers pay from their own pockets to bridge the financial gap,” said Aneesh N R, headmaster-in-charge.
The school authorities are flummoxed on how to cough up `26,000 as the vehicle insurance premium and around `40,000 to make the bus worthy of the fitness test. A few days’ break in the bus service will mean loss of classes for the tiny tots.
The Parents’ Teachers’ Association (PTA) is cash-strapped. The mere mention of financial contribution will mean the parents, who started sending their children to school after much persuasion, stop doing so.
A total strength of 58 in the lower primary section means the school still bears the ‘uneconomic’ tag.
“During the last vacation, teachers of the school voluntarily visited remote tribal hamlets and urged the parents to send their wards to the school. The weeklong campaign was effective as a few more students were added to the rolls,” said said PTA president Udaya Falgunan.
The teachers are not the only ones engaged in roping in more students for the school. Recently, a youth organisation called Anybody Can Do (ABCD) organised a grand ‘pravesanolsavam’ (reception) for the students and gave them new books and stationery items. Though the new academic year started on a rousing note, authorities are now wary of children dropping out in case the conveyance facility fails.