Why are government school students in Vellore studying under trees and tarpaulin sheets?

The temperature soars as the afternoon approaches and it's really difficult for the kids, G Vel Murugan, a parent and a member of the Parents Teachers Association shared
This is the government's plan | (Pic: Edexlive)
This is the government's plan | (Pic: Edexlive)

Students of the Government Middle School in Athiyur village, near Anaicut in Vellore, have been studying under trees and tarpaulin sheets for the last two months as their classrooms have been demolished for safety concerns. The three buildings in the school were razed down as part of the government's decision to demolish dilapidated school buildings across Tamil Nadu.

Most of the students sit under tarpaulin sheets, while others sit under a tree in the playground in the mornings, which cannot be used in the afternoon. They all sit under a tarpaulin roof in a cramped space, fanning with their notebooks for air circulation.

"The sheets absorb heat which makes it impossible for us to sit under them," a student said. They were drenched in sweat as the infamous Vellore summer temperature soars over 101 degree Fahrenheit. The sun rays intrude in between the gaps in the tarpaulin sheets, posing the risk of dehydration and heatstroke for the children.

The temperature soars as the afternoon approaches and it's really difficult for the kids, G Vel Murugan, a parent and a member of the Parents Teachers Association told TNIE. "The buildings were brought down two months ago and since then it's been difficult for the students. We're trying to get donations to build a structure," he added.

Few students are lucky to study in the small building, which used to be the Headmaster's room now used as a classroom. It is the only building left in the school. Here, the sun is not the only problem, teachers have to stop classes whenever there's rain. All the furniture of the school was dumped in a nearby rice mill and the students had to sit on the sheets in the mud. The place will turn chaotic during lunchtime, especially with the young children spilling food everywhere and throwing mud on each other.

The old buildings in the school were not so great, with the classrooms witnessing flooding and overflow of filthy drain water. Most of the time they were unusable but they at least had one. A senior School Education Department Official said that they've identified the places where there's an urgent need for school buildings and an estimation has been sent to the Government. The construction would begin as soon as the funds are allocated, the official added.

As many as 136 classrooms of the government schools in Vellore have been demolished during the drive and many require classrooms just like this school. Funds for the construction of school buildings, Anganwadis, kitchen sheds and common utility in the village panchayats have been released and the works will begin in June after administrative sanction, Vellore Department of Rural Development Agency Project Director K Arthi responded to TNIE's query.

The director also urged the officials to make temporary arrangements for the Anthiyur middle school. The classrooms and other infrastructure needs in the village panchayats will be carried out under the All Village Anna Marumalarchi Scheme. The scheme aims to cover all village panchayats in five years. "We will undertake infrastructure works in 100 village panchayats, which constitutes 40 per cent of the village panchayats in the district," she added.

A special team has identified the infrastructure and common utility needs in every village panchayat. According to sources, the schools which are in dire need of new buildings will be given priority. Also, the classrooms will be built under the School Infrastructure Development Scheme (SIDS).

Meanwhile, students of Government Middle school in Anneri panchayat in Tirupathur district recently protested against dilapidated school buildings. They said they faced venomous reptiles inside the classroom and their repeated request to renovate the school building was in vain. According to the district administration, 77 school buildings were demolished. Parents and activists demand inspection of school buildings across Tirupathur.

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