Rangamati Landslides: School-goers stare at bleak future
Hasna Begum is still numb from the shock of losing her homestead in the landslide that reduced all her valuables and belongings to ruins just a week ago. But the thought of the future of her school-going children is what sends shudders down her spine, unsettling her even further.
With all their textbooks gone, the children, aged 14 and 12, have nothing left and no place to study as they are now staying at a shelter in Rangamati. As of yesterday, over 3200 people were living at 19 such shelters. Even in these heart-breaking circumstances, perhaps they are at least more fortunate than the 120 people who died in the landslides.
Her children, Md Arif and Tanzina Khatun, study at Rangamati Govt School and Rani Dayamoy High School, in class six and seven respectively. With her children's half-yearly examination approaching, Hasna worries about how she will pay the tuition and examination fees along with other costs including the private tutor's fees. The mother, in her 30s, tries to think of ways but all she sees is dark days ahead.
"I don't know what will happen to my children now," said Hasna while talking to this correspondent at the Bangladesh Betar shelter centre.
“I have lost my house. The savings for my children's tuition and exam fees have been buried under the soil. I am now worried about the future of my children. I want to make them educated,” she told The Daily Star at BADC Building shelter centre.
She said she saved Tk 3,000 for her children's tuition and exam fees but the landslide took it all away and now she has no way to gather the money for their education.“If my husband can work, we can make the money. But how will I manage it ahead of July 6 when their half yearly exam is scheduled?” she asked.
Hasna's concern is shared by many of the mothers in different shelter centres in Rangamati. Josna Begum is one such mother. Her three children study at different schools.
In tears, she asked where she would go with her young children and what she would do. If her children cannot get an education then there is no reason for surviving the disaster, she said in a voice choked with emotion.
Khokon Chakma, Jibon Chakma, Rajesh Chakma and Tipon Chakma, honours students at Rangamati college, face a similar predicament. They lost everything in the landslide which occurred at Udondi Adam Para near Jubo Unnayon Kendra in the town. Their SSC and HSC examinations documents, along with other related things, have been buried in the disaster.
“We have exams after one month. We have nothing to support our education now,” said Tipon, urging the government to pay attention to their education. They also sought help from the authorities concerned to get duplicate copies of their certificates and documents.
They said there are students who need to get admitted to colleges but they do not have money or the documents required. The administration should also take care of these, they added.
Nirmal Kanti Chakma, district education officer, said they have prepared a list of 1500 high school students in need of books in the district and sent the list to higher authorities.
Asked about lowering the affected student's tuition and exam fees, he said if any guardian brings up the issue to them they would request the respective schools to consider it.
Rouson Ali, district primary education officer, said they had a list of 172 students who were affected and they were provided with their required books. He further said that 50 of the primary schools in the district have been affected in the landslide.
Contacted, Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Manzurul Mannan, said they have distributed some education materials amongst the victims already. “We have also collected books for secondary and primary school students,” he said.
About the guardian's worries regarding paying exam and tuition fees, he said the district administration will bear the fees. “It is my responsibility,” he told The Daily Star.
On the risky school buildings, he said they would draw government attention to repair or reconstruct those establishments.
The DC further said he had given Tk 5,000 each to 12 indigenous students affected in the landslide for getting admitted to college and buying the necessary educational materials. The district administration would even give laptops to anyone who lost one in landslide, he added.