August 11th, 2017
The indefinite shut down by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) has taken a toll on the school students who are due to sit for their board exams in 2018. To help them with their studies several schools in the hills of North Bengal have come up with the alternative of off-site coaching classes, reported Hindustan Times.
Board examinees facing problems
The shutdown has reached its 57th day on 10 August and has severely affected the daily life in the region. Schools in Darjeeling and Kurseong were supposed to reopen on July 8 and those in Kalimpong on June 27. However, the GJM agitators are in no mood to cut lax the indefinite bandh till their condition for statehood talks are met. Hence, the ordinary people, especially the school-goers are facing tremendous problems.
To tackle this problem, some schools have started off-site classes in Siliguri about 80 km away while others are trying to make the best use of the ‘relaxation’ given by the GJM for teaching students due to appear for board exams.
Among the schools that have started these classes are St Paul’s School that was set up in 1864, St Joseph’s School, St Anthony’s School, and Himali Boarding School.
The Himali Boarding School has been holding its classes since Monday at the Silpanchal Bhavan in Siliguri whereas St Joseph’s School (North Point) is holding classes at a Christian missionary centre in Bagdogra on the outskirts of Siliguri on 1 August.
Some schools are also renting community halls in the hills to teach the students. For day scholars, arrangements for coaching classes are being made in Darjeeling itself.
The schools in the hills have been known for the quality of education they provide – students not only from different states but also from neighbouring countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Thailand, and even Hong Kong come to study in these well-known and prestigious institutions.
The authorities of the different schools have been gravely concerned about the fate of their students during the ongoing protest and had written to the leaders of GJM requesting them for relaxation for the board examinees.
“We have allowed the schools to hold their coaching classes for Class 10 and 12 students in community halls without school uniforms,” said Binay Tamang, assistant secretary of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, the principal party in the hills.
However, one cannot overlook the fact that the situation in the hills is not conducive for studying and even though the teachers have been allowed to hold classes in the hills, they prefer Siliguri for obvious reasons.
Adding to this is the problem of the ban on internet services in the hills since June 19 has posed a serious challenge for the Class 9 and 11 students, who have to register their names with their respective boards by August 31. Many students do not have Aadhar cards which is needed to be linked to the ICSE registration – without internet they cannot even apply for Aadhar cards.
The current protests had started when, on 16 May, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced to make the Bengali language compulsory in all schools from Class I to Class IX, including private English-medium schools, of the state.
Most schools already had the language as an optional subject, but making it mandatory was seen as ‘linguistic imperialism’ by the Nepali speaking population of the region. In response, CM Banerjee decided to hold a Cabinet meeting in Darjeeling for the first time in 40 years.
The agitation escalated when a little effort was made by the state government to include representatives of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) or the three hill MLAs.
In a month’s time, 600 additional paramilitary personnel, including 200 women, were deployed in Darjeeling to help the administration restore normalcy.
The Logical Indian appreciates the move taken by the schools to help out the board examinees in this crucial time by giving them coaching classes. In the midst of curfews and bandhs, these schools have taken up the responsibility of clearing the syllabus backlog and guiding the students. Alongside, we also urge the concerned authorities to resolve the current lull in the situation and work towards a more workable solution for the Gorkhaland issue. It is but a pity to see a place like Darjeeling to be fraught with political tensions. It is crucial that the demands of the Gorkhas are not left unheard, and efforts are taken to bring back normalcy in the hills.
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