Chandani Patil, 10, was on school holiday, which she claimed was indefinite. “My school does not exist anymore. I can not go to study,” the primary school student said. She is one of the 100-odd children from 10 villages, which have been affected by the construction of the Navi Mumbai International Airport. Despite the Zilla Parishad starting two new schools in Karanjale and Vhal, the parents have refused to send their children to those institutions.
The Vhal nodal school was supposed to open on November 19, the authorities said. “We had sent trucks to gather several materials such as tables, mats and other equipment from the old school. But the villagers have locked all the schools and they refuse to open them,” said Raigad Zilla Parishad Education Officer, Ranjana Chaskar.
At present, the villagers have locked up the old schools and are boycotting the new ones. Prem Patil, one of the parents, said, “In each of our 10 villages, we have at least one primary school. Now, we have been offered only two new school, which too are located far away. Later, problems may crop up. Our children will not be able to access the schools and eventually those who have money will take them over and the facilities. We want schools to which our children can reach on foot.”
Another parent, Kamlesh Patil said, “We have seen the new schools. There are no amenities. In fact, potable water is also not available. If we do not protest now and send our children, later the condition will turn from bad to worse. We do not have the ability to send our children to other schools, and the authorities know this. By giving these two schools, it is almost like they are mocking us.”
The villages Chinchpada, Kopar, Waghivli, Waghivli wada, Polli, Ganeshpuri, Karanjale, Wadghar, Vhal and Ulwe are affected by the upcoming new airport at Navi Mumbai. The schools in these villages needed to be shifted as they were coming in the area demarcated for the airport. Hence, the Zilla Parishad has developed two nodal schools in Karanjale and Vhal for those 10 villages.
Chaskar said, “The amenities in the new schools will be brought from the old ones. We have provided water, electricity and other basic necessities. The nodes were decided with much attention. If the parents do not let us take possession of the old schools, how do we furnish the new ones? The children are getting no education in this squabble.”
However, the villagers are adamant about the schools. “We want more schools and we want them to be closer to our settlements. We are already being made outsiders on our own land, we will not let them toy with the future of our children,” Patil said.