Several schools in different parts of India are lying shut as they do not have any students. One such school is in Maharashtra’s Chandra in Bhor, where a 29-year-old teacher Rajinikanth Mendhe comes daily, crossing a mud-track of 12 km to teach his only student, Yuvraj Sangale (8).
The school is located over 100 km from Pune, and there are around 15 huts in the village with a population of 60.
Daily Hardship Faced By Mendhe
It is very difficult for Mendhe to cover the rough and muddy path between his place and school. He has been crossing the mud track for the last eight years, and whenever it rains, the trail turns into intolerable chaos. After reaching the school, his priority is to look for Yuvraj who often hides in the trees as he does not want to study in a school where he has no classmates or friends.
The village falls under the constituency of MP Supriya Sule who has never visited it.
“Government? The last we heard from them was when officials turned up with the polio vaccine,” a resident told The Times of India.
Why Is Chandra Turning Into A Deserted Land?
Mendhe who belongs to Nagpur started teaching in Chandler when there were 11 children. He said that he had a class of smart kids, but gradually several students were dropped out from school as the higher education facility was accessible 12 km away at a hamlet called Mangaon. Parents have sent their girls to Gujarat to work in factories and farms as daily-wage labourers. According to Mendhe, he tried to convince the parents to keep their children in school, but, unfortunately, all his efforts went in vain.
The school was constructed in 1985 just with four walls, and it was only a few years ago that school got a roof. Having several encounters with snakes, Mendhe said to Times of India, “One night, a snake dropped on me from the school’s roof. A few months later, while riding my bike on the mud track, I fell on a snake. I do not think I will survive the third encounter.”
Despite no electricity, Mendhe has been able to utilise an “e-learning facility” using a tiny TV set and few wires. About two years ago, village officials provided the locals with a 12-volt solar panel, and he used it to power a TV that helped in downloading useful content for his student. He also bought two tablets to enhance Yuvraj’s interest in learning and knowing the world in a better way. “Other children learn and play with those of their age, but Yuvraj has just me. For him, the school has become four walls with empty desks,” said Mendhe.
People hardly have any opportunity to earn their livelihood in Chandra. Their source of income has been reduced to a few cows and stone breaking. Baban Sangale (49) left his Mumbai job to care for his ailing mother. Pointing towards the village, he said, “There is nothing there. We use kerosene lamps for light. Three solar-powered lamps on our street stopped working years ago, and we have just about enough power (solar-generated) for one lightbulb per house and to charge phones.”
The deserted village also claimed many lives. While speaking about one of their friends, village women said that she died on the way to a hospital which is situated 63 km away. The woman was suffering from severe fever. The villagers made a temporary stretcher out of bamboo to take her to the hospital.
They further said that they get help from officials only when they get sick. Youth are leaving their hometown to seek employment or better opportunities. However, the old and sick have no other option but to remain in the isolated village.
Mendhe said that a Zilla Parishad teacher could apply for a transfer after five years, but transfers are based on vacancies. Another teacher, Manoj Andre who teaches in a nearby school is also seeking a transfer. Unlike Mendhe, Manoj has around nine students. Referring to his fellow teacher, he said, “It is a miracle that he has been coming here for eight years.”
They both are living with their families around 50 km away from the village in Khanapur. However, their families have no idea about the problems faced by them. “Mendhe sir and I have not told our families how remote our schools are. They will worry. We hardly take time off and even when we take leave, it is extremely hard for teachers from other areas to fill in for us,” added Andre.