'It's a double whammy for us. Due to the Covid pandemic, all schools across the country had to be shut'
In the five upazilas of Kurigram district, where residents are reeling from flooding, many families worry not only about being displaced from their homes, but also about what is in store for their children as almost all the schools in the region have sustained permanent damage.
The buildings of as many as 13 schools in these five upazilas have been inundated with river bank erosion-induced floodwater. While walls of many buildings have developed cracks, few have even collapsed.
The casualty -- some 2,500 students of these schools, who now stare at an uncertain future.
“It's a double whammy for us. Due to the Covid pandemic, all schools across the country had to be shut. Now, the only school in our area is under water. I don't know how my ward will continue his studies," says Islam Uddin, a parent.
Like many students in the five upazilas, Ariful Islam and Aduri Akter often take a stroll to Mekhlirchar Khandarkarpara Government Primary School before returning home, perhaps just to revive their old memories. "We are in a state of shock as our school building too has collapsed," say Ariful, a grade III student, and Aduri Akter, a grade-IV student.
According to the District Primary Education Office, a number of primary school buildings at Juan Satra, Naya Dara, Kharija Latshala and Char Bazra in Ulipur upazila, and in Uttar Char Khauria, Montola, and Dighalkandi of Chilmari upazila have gone under river water due to frequent floods between June and September.
Many parents say there is no primary school in their areas now. "The only school in our area has gone under water. What will happen to our children," say parents Bhola Mia and Ashraf Hossain.
Mohammad Abdus Sabur, headmaster of Mekhlirchar Khandarkarpara Government Primary School, says, “I have contacted the education office and a new school building will be built after getting funds."
When contacted, Mohammad Shahidul Islam, the district education officer, said, “The government has taken an initiative to ensure that the learning of the students is in no way affected. Already Tk3 lakh each under education head in emergency projects has been allocated to six schools, and the remaining will be given financial aid soon.”