A cyclone shelter stands strong in Muttukkad on East Coast Road. But there seems to be no indication that it houses a school and an outstation of the Coastal Security Group.
On the ground floor of this yellow cylindrical building are children clad in uniforms chatting amongst themselves. Neatly packed bags with books also lie around. Indifferent to all chatter, the security personnel frequently enter the classroom quietly and go up the stairs to their station.
For parents, the personnel present in the vicinity ensure the safety of their children who study in this school located close to the road. Around 35 children who are primarily from the Karikattu Kuppam study here. “The building has no compound walls, and we have asked the security personnel to take care of our children,” says Sangeetha Krishnan, a parent.
Outside the school building there is no name board to suggest that classes I to V of the Panchayat Union Elementary School of Karikattu Kuppam are held here. “The building does not belong to the school and so a board cannot be placed there,” says M. Nagooran, member of the village panchayat.
The building also lacks other basic facilities required in a school. In the absence of a kitchen to prepare the noon meal, the food is prepared in the open by burning firewood. And there are no toilets either.
Seven years ago, when the tsunami struck the village of Karikattu Kuppam , it altered the lives of its residents forever. The waves completely submerged the village and its school. It was a long fight before the villagers were given new homes in the neighbourhood. The tsunami victims were allocated 7 acres and 18 cents of land on which houses were built. “When our houses were destroyed in the disaster and we were given huts to live in, we suggested to officials that the school be run inside the cyclone shelter. But even after seven years it continues to function in the same building,” says Mr. Nagooran.
The villagers say that a lot of what the tsunami took with it has not been restored after all these years. The anganwadi of the village is also run in its community centre.
“We were asked if the area allotted to the playground can be used to build the school. But this is the only place in the locality children can play. Otherwise they want us to show where the school can be built in this area,” says P. Padmanabhan, another resident.
Now that the Right to Education Act rules have been notified in the State, it is the duty of the government to ensure that a primary school is constructed with all facilities within one-km radius, says Ossie Fernandes, state representative, National Council for Protection of Child Rights.
According to S. Bhaskar, panchayat head, the Education Department allocated funds for the construction of a new school this year. “But since the villagers have not been able to suggest an area, this year too, the funds would be taken back, as they have been for many years now,” he says.