As per the Right to Education Act 2009, every school should have a source of drinking water in the school premises but a large number of rural schools in India are still suffering because of the lack of availability of safe drinking water. In the Government Primary School of Paluna, a tribal village of Sarada block in Udaipur, there is absolutely no source of water for the kids and providing safe drinking water seems to be next to impossible. A hand pump which was constructed in the school premises has not been working for the last six years. As it is, the fluoride levels in the ground water in Udaipur’s tribal belt are surprisingly high to be even used for any purpose. It is in this scenario that this school, which caters to the educational needs of 130 tribal kids, exists.
The mid-day meal workers fill up earthen pots from the village hand-pump every day for cooking and drinking purposes. Three earthen pots are filled and kept near the staff room for the students to drink during school hours. In the lunch time, after having the mid-day meal, all the students carry their plates barefoot for more than 300 metres to clean them. The condition of school toilets is even worse. Because of the lack of facility of water in toilets, students are exposed to an unhealthy environment which often results into absenteeism among students because of various diseases like cholera, jaundice, urinary infections and so on. There have been several attempts by the school authority, but no action has been taken till date.
“We have had a meeting with the Sarpanch Sahab of Amarpura Panchayat of Sarada Block, and hopefully the handpump will be re-dug and [it will] start working in the coming year,” said Suryakanta Kachoria, who has been serving as a teacher in the same school for the past 10 years.
Every time the government changes, the policies are changed as a way of defaming the previous government but mostly it is the common populace that suffers during the whole process. Most of the schools in the tribal belt of Udaipur are built, expanded or reconstructed under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme, but the quality of materials used is such that the rainwater passes through the ceilings of the school building which makes it difficult for teachers and students to continue the teaching-learning process.
It’s crucial to realise that education is more than just providing four walls of bricks in the name of schools. The rural tribal communities have already been deprived, and the major focus should be to enhance their standard of living through basic facilities being clubbed with education. It’s high time that we separate dirty political games from education completely and this will only be possible with an intellectual revolution – a revolution of thoughts. It’s going to be a different kind of independence struggle and definitely the struggle will have to continue for a long time.