TN kids in hilly areas forced to trek up to 12 km to reach school
In some places, students walk up to 12 km in rough terrain, and miss classes when their legs ache. Many of these areas don’t have bus services.
Published: 21st September 2022 05:46 AM | Last Updated: 21st September 2022 03:41 PM | A+A A-
CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has several schemes to increase the enrolment in government schools, but students in hilly regions still get a raw deal. Hundreds of them are forced to walk more than 3 km to reach their schools. In some places, students walk up to 12 km in rough terrain, and miss classes when their legs ache. Many of these areas don’t have bus services.
And in the areas that do, the services are very limited and not at a timing suitable for schoolchildren.
“As per the Right to Education Act, elementary education must be offered within 1 km of students’ residences or the children should be given transportation. In a few schools, students get Rs 600 per month for transport, but implementation of the scheme under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan is erratic,” says Natraj, of Sudar, an organisation working among the tribal population in Erode. Students from Kongaadai in Erode district walk more than 10 km to the Hosur High School.
Similarly, children walk 8 km from Anil Natham to Gujjambalayam High School, 5 km from Bejeletti and Madam areas to Thevar Malai High School, and 8 km from Karalayam and Kanakuthur to the Bhasuvanapuram Higher Secondary School.
“Along with 15 other students, I start walking around 8 am to reach school at 9.10 am. The bell rings at 9.20 am. When we’re tired, we reach late and miss classes,” says M Jaya a Class 12 student who walks 5 km from her village to the Government Tribal Residential (GTR) School at Burgur in Erode district.
The school offers accommodation for boys, but doesn’t have a girls’ hostel. Sources said students in most GTR schools prefer to walk than to live on campus due to the poor condition of the hostels.
‘Aided and tribal welfare schools in hilly areas are excluded from scheme’
While 100 students travel 5 km from Onnagarai to Hosur, funds for travel are only given for 50 students, Natraj says, and adds the situation is similar in Jawadhu Hills in Tiruvannamalai. In Kalvarayan Hills, located between Salem and Kallakurichi, students from Aethur, Uppur and Vaaram walk 12 km to their school in Pagudupattu. And in Tiruchy's Pachamalai, students make a long and arduous trek to schools in Kodungal and Kammampettai.
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"The Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department does run some residential schools, but students are made to sleep in classrooms as there are no separate rooms for accommodation. Most students return home whenever buses are available," explains S Ramu, a child rights activist.
The scheme to fund students' transportation was implemented in 2013, when Rs 300 per month was given to each student who has to travel a long distance to school. The amount was increased to Rs 600 in 2019.
It is being implemented well in The Nilgiris, says a government teacher in the district. But the condition of government tribal residential schools is poor, the teacher adds.
"Most of them are unlivable. They should be brought under the School Education Department for better implementation of schemes," says Lakshmanan, a social activist from Coimbatore. He adds that the transportation scheme doesn't apply to government-aided schools in hilly regions and Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare department schools.
Despite repeated attempts, officials from the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan were not available for comments.