At least ten per cent of students enrolled in government schools in Chandigarh have left the city to go back to their native towns and villages during and after the lockdown, stated data collated by the District Education Office (DEO).
There are about 1,10,000 students enrolled in the UT government schools, which means that approximately 10,000 children have left the city. With more migrant labourers planning to leave the city every day, it is likely that this number will increase in the next few weeks.
“It is not much, it is only about ten per cent of our students, and perhaps some of them might even return soon,” said Harbir Anand, the new DEO for the UT, who took over the post from Alka Mehta on July 1.
These numbers have been submitted by the heads and principals of each government schools. Furthermore, most children’s parents did not leave after obtaining a leave certificate from the schools, which means it will be difficult for the children to get enrolled in a new school wherever they are located right now, especially if they are in senior classes.
Shiv Shankar, a plumber and casual laborer who has migrated to his native village in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh, said that sending his four children to school and resuming their education is the last thing on his mind right now.
“My priority is feeding them right now, and nothing else. I came here in early June and since then I have been sitting idle, so I think I will go back to Chandigarh now and send back money to my wife and children. At least that way everyone will remain well fed,” said Shankar, who is now actively seeking a way to travel back to Chandigarh.
“Even the buses are so costly now. I have to take a loan to buy a ticket. They are over charging thousands because they know how desperate we are,” he added.
As for Shankar’s children, his eldest daughter, 18, has been married off using money that he had loaned from relatives.
“I now have a debt of more than Rs 60,000 since the lockdown began. That is why I have to go back and find a job in Chandigarh. There is nothing here for me,” he said.
His other daughter, 16, along with two sons, were enrolled in a government school in Dhanas before the lockdown began.
“I don’t even have a smartphone, so they cannot communicate with their teachers over WhatsApp either. They have some textbooks; they can read those at home. That is all I can do for their education now,” he said.
The head of a government school in Chandigarh, said that they are unsure of how many students have actually left from their schools.
“We cannot get in touch with some of them, others complain that they do not have a smartphone so what is the use of staying in touch with teachers. Yet others say they are back home for a marriage and will return in some time, but we can’t be sure if they will,” said the school head.
He further added that they have compiled a list of students who they have been unable to get in touch with for now, but there could be more who are lying about their intention to continue their child’s education.
“They are sometimes scared or ashamed of admitting that they won’t bring their children back to the city, so they choose to lie,” he said.
Still others, like Shivani, a class tenth student studying in a government school in Sector 20, is set to accompany her family back home to her village in Sant Kabir District of Uttar Pradesh. Her father, a painter, has been unable to find work in Chandigarh even after the lockdown was eased.
“Whatever I get is not enough to sustain the family. At least back home I have my parents and brothers who are relatively well off and work as thekedars. We’ll be comfortable there and my three younger children can continue their education as well,” said Shivani’s father, Raj Kumar.
As for continuing Shivani’s education, Kumar said that she has learnt enough now. “We won’t find a good school for senior classes here. She might as well stay home,” added Kumar, who will be leaving for his village on Sunday.
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