Edu brings hope to Assam flood-affected villages

Mohuramukh (Assam): The Right to Education Act has brought cheers into the miserable lives of villagers living on the banks of the Brahmaputra in Assam`s Golaghat district who are under a constant threat of flood and land erosion.

Education and economic empowerment are the latest buzzwords in the villages, courtesy the landmark law, dotting the south bank of the river and inhabited predominantly by Mishing tribals in the Bokakhat sub-division of the district.

A project has been undertaken to provide access to quality education by children of the Mishing community, the coordinator of the project for Golaghat district, Gautam Dutta, said.

Stating that education is the biggest casualty of the twin problems of flood and land erosion in the area, Dutta said the project had been undertaken by an NGO, North East Affected Area Development Society (NEADS) in collaboration with the Aide-et-Action (International) in 28 villages.

"The primary aim of the project is to understand, document and teach learning process to Mishing children and to advocate and influence policy decisions in alignment with the Right to Education Act," he said.

Dutta believes that the implementation of the project would lead to improvement in educational opportunities and quality of education for children in the area.

Dutta further pointed out that another major focus of the project is to improve capacities of women and children in general and girl children, in particular, to advocate for their right to education and development. “Before starting our work, it was necessary to know the competitiveness of the children in the 3 R`s-Reading, Writing and Arithmetic and a Children Competitiveness Assessment (CCA) was conducted to prepare the future action plan,“ he said.

An initiative has also been taken to set up thirty `Sishu Manchas` in the project area where the children are being taught extra-curricular activities like drawing, singing, games and sports, extempore speech, quiz, etc on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

The children are also taken on exposure trips to give them practical education and widen their outlook. "We have also planned to publish a wall magazine along with a hand-written magazine by the children themselves and they already prepared several wall posters on various themes," he said.

Besides education, several activities have been undertaken to create awareness in the community on health and hygiene, women empowerment and the rights and responsibilities of the citizens. "As the project area is highly disaster prone, we have also trained youths in five groups of 20 each in activities related to disaster preparedness with the help of civil defence and district disaster cell," Dutta said.

Local residents, particularly women, are very enthusiastic about the project. "My siblings and I was forced to leave school as my parents could not afford it. We had to help them by working as daily wage labourers, but I want my children to complete their education and lead a better life," said 38-year-old Sangeeta Luing.

The path to education, however, is not very easy as communication to schools during floods is a major problem. "Our children have to go to school by boats during the flood, but enough of these are not available and they have to wade through water to reach their destinations," said another mother Nirupama Payeng.
This also affects their health and their attendance becomes irregular, she added.

The district administration has assured the villagers that their problems would be looked into and all possible measures taken to see their education was not affected.