In the absence of transport facilities, 110 students of eight tribal hamlets in the Bargur Hills of Erode district are being forced to cover 8 km on foot every day, to reach the Government Higher Secondary School at Oosur.
A total of 280 students, including 160 girls, from Onnakarai, Thambureddy, Oosur, Kovilnathan, Periya Sengulam, Chinna Sengulam, Agnipavi, Kongadai, and Periyur villages, all located in West Bargur Hills, are studying at the school. The only available Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) bus service departs from Kongadai at 9.40 a.m. to reach Oosur at 10 a.m., whereas the school starts functioning by 9.15 a.m. In the absence of other modes of transportation, including pick-up vans, students have to cover the distance on foot every day to reach their school.
Under the Samagra Shiksha Scheme, the School Education Department arranged for transport and escort facilities for the students of Onnakarai and Thambureddy for which each student is given ₹600 per month. “But vehicles have not been arranged for students in Kongadai, Sengulam and Kovilnatham areas and they have to reach the school on foot every day”, said S.C. Natraj, Director of the Service Unit for Development Activities in Rural (SUDAR), a Sathyamangalam-based NGO. He said that 110 students in these hamlets lack transport facilities, and this has been leading to the students dropping out of school.
Chief Educational Officer P. Ayyannan told The Hindu that funds were released to the students’ bank account who in turn could settle the money with the van driver. “There could be some issues in settling the money and an official has been asked to conduct an inquiry and ensure the vehicle is operated regularly”, he added.
But parents said that no vehicle was arranged for these students so far. “There is no mobile network connectivity in the West Bargur Hills and the safety of our wards is a priority when they go to school”, said Maadhan of Kongadai who wanted a vehicle to be arranged without further delay.