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Remain closed for years
Prem Punetha, Here schools open in poll time only, Feb 6, 2017, The Times of India
Over 50 schools in Pithoragarh district have remained closed for the past few years
However, come election time and some of them are opened, hastily cleaned up and converted into poll booths
A govt primary school in Champawat. A govt primary school in Champawat.
They are ghost buildings — where instead of the clamour of students and the sound of lessons, an eerie silence prevails.
Over 50 schools in Pithoragarh district have remained closed for the past few years because the families of children studying here have migrated from the area in search of better livelihood options. As a result, these buildings lie abandoned. However, come election time and some of them are opened, hastily cleaned up and converted into poll booths. The government primary school in Bona village, 10 km from the nearest roadhead, is one such institution. Located in a remote corner of the Dharchula constituency which lies along the India-Nepal border, the school closed in 2013. This election, the building will function as a polling booth for Bona and Golfa village which have 632 voters. "Those who want to educate their children do not stay in the village since the only occupation is agriculture. Most of the families with children have migrated to Munsiyari. That is why the school had to shut down," says Puran Pandey, a local resident.
It is a similar story in villages of nearby Didihat constituency. The government primary school at Bhulagaon for instance closed almost three years back due to lack of students. A few days ago, its lock was opened and preparations were ongoing to make it a polling centre for the 387 voters of villages like Bhulagoan, Adali and Majhera. The school was put to a similar use in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as well. It's not as if the problem is limited to Pithoragarh alone. In almost all the remote hill districts of Kumaon, it is a similar story. In Champawat for example, Sunadi village, once home to 55 families, has just 20 families left. Consequently, it's primary school downed shutters and will now function as a polling booth.
"Who would want to stay in a village where there are no medical facilities and education opportunities?," says an agitated Naresh Joshi, a local villager. "Wild animals destroy our crops and the poor quality of education compels us to send our wards two kilometres away to a private school," he adds. AK Jukariya, district education officer, Pithoragarh, expressed helplessness at the closing of schools in the area. "If we have sufficient number of students, we can re-open them. But until that happens, it is not viable for us to run these schools."