Going to school a daily hazard in flood-hit Assam villages
For 11-year-old Jesmina Begum, daughter of Abdul Motin of Atigaon, a village in the flood-ravaged Morigaon district in central Assam, commuting to school has become not only difficult but also dangerous in the recent weeks.
"We know that five children drowned in a boat capsize on Tuesday. But what to do? We can't stop going to school," Jesmina said.
The floods have washed away the road to their village and also a bridge. "Now we go to school on a boat, paying Rs 2 for each trip to cross the Pakariya river," Jesmina said, alighting from the small country boat that belongs to Hamidul Islam, a resident of the village. The Pakariya's floodwaters have considerably receded, but the river is yet to move back to its original channel.
Jesmina is one among dozens of children of Atigaon, Hariyapar, Kalbari, Bori, Karchowa, Gagolmari and other villages in the district who had been travelling dangerously on tiny country boats to cross the Pakariya.
Hasnara Khatun (11) of Hariyapar, Elisa Khatun (12), Nazneen Sultana (10) and Nurul Amin (13) — all of Kalbari — Umeda Begum (10) of Karchowa, Amirul Islam (12) of Gagolmari, Rupa Begum (10) of Atigaon, have been forced to take this dangerous trip twice a day to make it to Balimukh Lower Primary School — the only school for a cluster of about half-a-dozen villages, established in 1958.
They were aware of the danger as five children drowned on the way to school in two boat accidents on Tuesday. These children were on boats ferrying people across due to two breaches on the road caused by the swelling Pakariya. The children killed in Tuesday's accidents included three girls — Akhtara Begum (9), Samsul Nehar (11), Noor Zaman (9) — and Sheikh Farid (9) and Habibur Rahman (8).