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School identifying Nepal beyond Mechi in a state of neglect

2023 Apr 27, 12:46,
Representative image

Lakhkhi Rajbanshi of Gwala Basti reads in Class 7. She has to pass through the Indian Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) post daily on the Nepal-India border to go to her school that lies on the India side of the border.

Lakhkhi is one of the many school children from Gwalabasti who has to cross the border over to India to attend school after the one in their settlement closed.

Gwalabasti is a settlement that lies beyond the Mechi River in Jhapa district. This hamlet, known as the 'Nepal beyond the Mechi River', lacks development infrastructures like road, communication, drinking water and security and other amenities. Ditto is the situation of Sisaudangi area. Although both these areas are parts of the Mechinagar Municipality, Ward No 15, they lack the development due to their location beyond the Mechi River.

Like Lakhkhi, scores of children from these two settlements are compelled to go to a school in India, facing the challenge of crossing the border almost daily.

Kamal Banske, 20, of Sisaudangi has dropped studies and he is now engaged in agriculture and works as a tea estate labourer. He studied up to Class 2 at the Mechi Primary School in Gwalabasti. Then he was enrolled at the Kalika Basic School. He completed Class 3 from this school. Kamal had to cross the Mechi River to attend his school. He says he abandoned going to school fearing for his life he might be swept away by the swollen Mechi any time during the monsoon.

With a population of 150, Gwalabasti and Sisaudangi are the Nepali territories beyond the Mechi River, which are devoid of development amenities. The locals have been demanding for road accessibility, construction of bridges over the Mechi and education, health and security facilities and subsidies on agriculture for decades now. But their demand has gone unheard till date.

The Mechi Primary School was set up at Gwalabasti 23 years back and it was the only symbol of the presence of the Nepali state here. At one time this school had four teachers to teach the students, but now it is closed. The school has two blocks – one is an office block and the other block has three classrooms. All the four rooms are padlocked.

"The teachers do not turn up at the school. So, the students also have stopped coming," said Kumar Rajbanshi who donated five kaththas of his land to the school for construction of its building. According to him, the locals requested the teachers to come to school regularly as they came to the school if they liked and did not if they did not like. "Now, the school is closed and we are compelled to send our children to a school across the border in India," Rajbanshi lamented.

As he said, the school used to run pre-school, Class 2 and Class 3 since the beginning and the students who were coming to the school gradually started leaving it after the classes became irregular. Rajbanshi further said that some children from the village go to the school across the border in India while many have left their studies and work in the farms.

"It used to give us a sense of our Nepali identity when the students used to sing the national anthem and the environment was lively with different activities when the school was in operation. No longer is the case now after it closed. The classrooms are empty. The benches and desks in the classrooms have also vanished," he shared the pitiable condition the school is at present.

Lok Bahadur Dahal, the Resource Person at the Mechinagar Education Section, accepted that the classes at the Mechinagar Primary School have been affected after students stopped coming there. He said the children in the settlements rather prefer to go to the school in India side across the border for they get better facilities there.

As per the records, 16 students used to study in Mechi Primary School last year and there were two teachers. A teacher, Bhawaraj Joshi, left the school and got his transfer to the Kalika Basic School while the next one, Rewati Rajbanshi, a pre-primary teacher, also left the school after she passed the Teacher Service Commission examination.

The Education Section has designated Yubaraj Dhakal, the head teacher of Kalika Basic School, as the head teacher of Mechi Primary School also so that it is not without a teacher. But he, who is taking regular classes at Kalika Basic School, does not go to Mechi Primary School.

One Rajesh Rajbanshi, a school assistant staff, had been taking care of the school. But he also stopped coming to the school as he lives in Bhindibasti, a village across the Mechi, and is not enthusiastic about attending the school as he does not want to take the burden of crossing the Mechi to reach the school daily, the locals claim.

There were 50 students at Mechi Primary School ten years back, Rajesh said. He added that the number of students dwindled over the years as the villagers also started out-migrating from the village for employment and as the village lacked development amenities. According to him, sometimes the SSB personnel come to the school and ask him whether it is a Nepali school or Indian.

Dahal, the Resource Person at the Education Section, reiterates that the only school in the settlement beyond the Mechi River should not be closed, rather it should be re-opened by increasing facilities at the school to attract students and teachers, even to project that Gwalabasti and Sisaudangi are the Nepali territories.

(Chandrakala Bhandari)


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