An exchange programme to promote national integration has turned into a nightmare for over 40 class 9 students — boys and girls — from Navodaya Vidyalayas in Chitradurga and Tumakuru. They are stranded in their sister schools in Madhya Pradesh.
The north Indian State has seen an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases and students are frightened, but unable to return to their families as the lockdown has been extended to May 3.
Around 23 students from Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) in Uduvalli of Hiriyur taluk, Chitradurga district, are at the Navodaya Vidyalaya in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh. Another 20 students from a JNV in Gollahalli, Tumakuru district, are stranded at the school in Ashoknagar in Madhya Pradesh.
As part of the exchange programme, the students had left for M.P. in July 2019 at the start of the academic year. While they returned to their native towns in October during the holidays, they went back to the schools in M.P. to complete the academic year.
Ananya Ramesh, one of the students stranded in Dewas, sent a video to her father saying that they are worried about contracting COVID-19 as there were many positive cases in the area near their school. Her father K. Ramesh Babu told The Hindu: “Every day, my daughter calls me and cries saying that she may contract the infection.”
Another parent R. Ramakrishne Gowda, whose son is in M.P., has been following the spread of the pandemic in M.P. closely. “My son is afraid to stay in Dewas and wants to come back home. He calls me every day, requesting me to bring him back home. What do I do?” he said.
Principal of the JNV in Tumakuru district, Beena G., has been flooded with calls from anxious parents but is unable to give them an answer. “We have requested the authorities in Madhya Pradesh to make arrangements to bring the students back home,” she said, adding that one teacher and one staff member is also in Ashoknagar with the students. Incidentally, the school was able to send the M.P. students it was hosting back to their homes before the lockdown began, and is now conducting online classes for them.
Unfortunately, they were unable to get their students back to Tumakuru in time. G.A. Jyothi can’t wait to hug her daughter, Harsha, who is in Ashoknagar. “We are very worried about our daughter. Harsha said that she does not know when she will come back to Tumakuru and see us,” she said.
Students from Dewas stranded
Similarly, 21 students from the Navodaya Vidyalaya in Dewas district who had come to the Uduvalli school find themselves in a similar situation and have no choice but to remain in Chitradurga.
Stefan Raj, principal of JNV in Chitradurga, estimates that more than 1,500 students who were part of the exchange program are stranded in 180 Navodaya schools across India. “As per the migration policy of the Navodaya schools, class 9 students from non-Hindi speaking areas are sent to Hindi-speaking areas and vice-versa to promote national integration.”
Ananya has appealed to the authorities to help all students stranded in the Navodaya schools to reach their homes. Mr. Gowda has also appealed to the Prime Minister. “The parents of the 23 students stranded in Dewas wrote to the Prime Minister 15 days ago requesting him to make arrangements to send the students back to their homes but failed to get any response.”