Aheartening turn of events promises better tidings for the nearly 700 hapless schoolchildren of Kaluwala village and its surrounding 13 villages in Ferozepur district. They have to daily endure a precarious two-hour journey from their homes by a makeshift boat and on foot every day — come rain or shine — to reach their school in Gatti Rajoke village, located 5 km across the Sutlej river. The hope stems from the fact that a high-level official has cared to move out of the cosy environs of his office to get a feel of their plight. In a gesture that is rare these days, Secretary (Education), Punjab, Krishan Kumar recently undertook the nightmarish trip and talked to the villagers to get a firsthand report of the matter.
However, it would be prudent to hold our horses before showering more kudos on the officer. They can be reserved till a solution to the problem is presented to the kids. A pontoon bridge could make the students’ journey safer; a school in a village this side of the river would benefit them doubly as the time and energy saved resultantly could be utilised by them on studying. Even a decade after the Right to Education Act came into force, under which the government is obliged to provide free education up to class VIII to every child in a neighbourhood school within 1 km, it has not been implemented in toto.
The state of the infrastructure of school education in Punjab, especially in the far-flung border rural areas, is far from satisfactory. Rural Development Ministry data shows that around 47 per cent villages have schools only up to the primary level. Many a child is forced to drop out after primary schooling in her village due to lack of amenities, the basic one being safe mode of transport to the nearest senior secondary school. While he is at it, the officer would do well to identify more such needy spots. That is the first necessary step towards targeted development and execution of schemes.
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