news Wednesday, July 01, 2015 - 05:30
¬† Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad is a posh area which houses some of the richest people in the city. Half the city's politicians and stars of the Tollywood industry live in and around the area dotted by large, looming buildings. In one of the by-lanes, road number 22 to be specific, a group of children sit on the footpath under a tree reciting alphabets and comprehending maths with full sincerity. Though many children do not understand the gravity of the situation, the teachers and parents who surround them do. The Alpha school in Jubilee Hills which was in a make shift shelter, and where children from a very poor background were provided free education, now lies in tatters. The school teaches around 50 children from the age group of 2-8 and covers English, Hindi, Maths, Science and Social Studies.¬† ¬† ¬† The school which was set up around 15 years ago, runs with the help of five teachers and a few volunteers, managing to keep a minimal dropout rate and succeeding where government schools fail. It also provided free books, bags and stationery to ensure that the kids are sincere. Three days ago, at around 8 pm, officials from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) allegedly demolished the school owing to the fact that it was an illegal construction. This has left the children to continue their education on the footpath. "When I established the school in 2000, the entire area was a slum. Since most of the parents were house helps and daily wage laborers, they could not accompany their children to the nearest government school which was far away. Since I did not want them to go uneducated, I set this up and started teaching them here so they could walk to and from school," says an emotional Shobha Rani, as she looks on at the debris of the school. Ever since the school was demolished, Shobha has been running pillar to post, even approaching the state human rights commission to request for allotment of land on humanitarian grounds. ¬† ¬† Why was the school demolished? On paper, the only reason given for razing the school was the illegal encroachment of the footpath.¬†The New Indian Express¬†quotes a senior GHMC official who claims that a notice was served in February and the school was given several reminders. "I admit that the school was encroaching the footpath, but it was doing so for many years before today. People had always left me alone because I was educating children. Then suddenly these people come at night and just demolish the entire place which I took care of for 15 years. What is more important than a child's education?" asks Shobha. However some feel that there is an ulterior motive behind the move. Addressing a gathering of reporters outside the collector's office, Sudhakar who is the Greater Hyderabad secretary, Communist Party of India (CPI) said that "the reason for the sudden move is the fact that Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is shifting his house to just 20 yards near the school and children running around on the streets would be an inconvenience.‚ÄĚ ¬† ¬† Some parents also echo a similar view. "Since Naidu is shifting to that house over there, a new road is being built that connects the main road directly to his residence. The school came in the way and they removed it," says one of the children's parents who wished to remain anonymous. Consequences "The consequences could be really serious. If these children do not have this school, many of them will drop out as they cannot walk all the way to the government school at Borabanda. After that, they will have no choice but to succumb to child labour or even get into anti social activities," Shobha adds. Following the destruction of the school, Shobha, who refuses to cave in, has been teaching the children on the same footpath under a tree, right next to the place where the school once stood.¬† ¬† ¬† After three days of protest, it finally caught the attention of the government after a few education officials visited the spot and assured everyone present that the school would be relocated within 100 yards of that area but away from the footpath.¬† The officials have asked the teachers and parents to write their demands in a letter which would personally be taken care of by Hyderabad District Educational Officer M Somi Reddy. However, Shobha still looks doubtful. "Even if they agree to all our demands, the bureaucracy involved in getting people to come and build a school will easily take time. They are asking me to stop teaching for a little while till the new school is built but I cannot do that. The children need to start with their academic year and each day is precious," she adds.¬† ¬†
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