Sheets of corrugated iron tied to bamboo poles make the roofs and the walls on one particular side. The remaining sides are left open. The floor is left in its natural state with parts of it growing clusters of grass. Benches, strewn inside the structure, are the only indication that this building is the Purba Satunama Aminpara govt primary school.
Situated in the inaccessible Satunama Char, a shoal of the Teesta river, at Junagas Chapani union of Dimla upazila in Nilphamari, this has been the condition of the school since 2017, when the school building was washed away during a flood.
While visiting the school on Wednesday, this correspondent found a bearded teacher in a lungi teaching 10-12 students. Some of the pupils were bare-chested and most were more focused on gossiping rather than anything.
The teacher, identifying himself as Abul Bashar, said, “The school has four teachers, including the headmaster, but three of them seldom come as it is difficult to commute to the school from the mainland,” he said, adding the two routes for the journey involved either walking through a sandy path or wading through the Teesta. In this situation, he was given the school's responsibility as he was a local, he said.
Abul Kashem, a local, alleged that the inaccessibility of the Teesta was an excuse as the other teachers came to school only a day or two each month just to sign the attendance register to draw their salary with ease.
Contacted over phone, the school's headmaster, Khalilur Rahman, denied the allegation of being continuously absent from school and said, “I couldn't attend the school today as I am busy with official work in Dimla office but I'm unaware of why the other teacher's were absent.”
Asked about the school, he said it was established in 1991 and nationalised in 2016 as 250 children in the area enrolled in it but the number declined to 91 this year due to the lack of an academic building.
President of the school management committee Siddiqur Rahman said that after the school had been swept away in the 2017 flood, the government allocated money to rebuild it in the same year but the fund was returned as there was a threat of river erosion the area.
Saiful Islam, union parishad member of the area, said, “Due to the risky commute, teachers lose interest to attend school and try to get a transfer.”
However, Upazila Primary Education Officer (UPEO) Swapan Kumar Das said, “The government has again allocated fund for the school this year under a project for rebuilding the schools affected in the 2017 flood and the work will start very soon.”
Regarding the teachers' absence, Osman Gani, district primary education officer (DPEO), said, “I've directed UPEO to investigate the reason of the teachers' unauthorised absence.”