Published: 01st July 2019
Double Duty: These Cuddalore children forced to fetch water at home and at school
Express visited government middle schools in Kadampuliyur and Nallur and found that it had become a practice for children to be sent out to fetch water — in pots, jugs or bottles — during class hours
For the past two months, nine-year-old Gayathri has been pulling ‘double duty’. At home, she has to fetch water for the household from the nearby lake before going to school.
Then once she gets to the government school in Nallur block where she is a student, she is sent to fetch water from the nearby village pump to meet the drinking water and sanitation needs of her classmates.
This has become the norm for children in some of the more parched parts of Cuddalore district this summer. Since schools reopened on June 3, these children have had to fetch water for their families and classes, often despite the scorching heat.
The severe water shortage in the district is most felt in the town and village panchayats of Virdhachalam, Nallur, Mangalore and remote villages of Thittagudi and Veppur. The primary, middle and high schools in these panchayats are all deprived of water, making the sight of students walking outside schools in search of water quite common.
Express visited government middle schools in Kadampuliyur and Nallur and found that it had become a practice for children to be sent out to fetch water — in pots, jugs or bottles — during class hours. While some of the children clearly relished the opportunity to bunk classes, the shortage of water meant students also had to resort open defecation.
One Class 5 student, seen washing his plate after having his mid-day meal, said, “We wash plates with drinking water provided to us from the common pipes. But, since there is no water in the toilets we often go in the open.”
Given the risk to the children and disruption of their studies, some teachers had taken it upon themselves to source the water.
A teacher at a government school at Mel Mathur village of Nallur block said that she ensured drinking water was kept outside the class so that students didn’t have to go looking for water. “Due to the heat we frequently run out of water. Although we are currently able to manage water for drinking, there is no water in toilets. Most of our time is spent on planning where to source water from,” she added.
The situation is worse in more remote villages, Express found. At several schools, the Reverse Osmosis plant was unused. When this was brought to the attention of the district education department, officials said that, at a recent review meeting, they had informed the Collector that the plants were not being used and the schools were facing water shortage.
“In a week’s time, the RO plants will be serviced if faulty and the shortage of drinking water will be resolved soon,” an official from the department said.