Nestled on the fringe of southern Assam’s Hailakandi district, lies the Residential Special Training Centre (RSTC) for girls. Housed in a virtually abandoned Assam-type structure of an erstwhile Basic Training Centre, the RSTC is in a sorry state of affairs. Seeing the deplorable condition of the centre will move anyone to tears.
Most of the girls, aged between 11 to 14, who have never enrolled in schools or are drop-outs, come from the economically poor and marginalised segments of the society. Most of them come from the far-flung, inaccessible areas of South Hailakandi, infested with militants and belonging to the backward Reang community, who live along the Assam-Mizoram inter State border.
Run by the Axom Sarba Siksha Abhijan (SSA), the centre is plagued by a plethora of problems. The dormitory rooms, three in number, where the girls are put up on two-tier beds, are all cramped for space.
During the rainy season, the girls have to be shifted to the dining hall as water seeps in through the leaked roofs. A portion of the false ceiling in one of the dingy dormitory rooms is about to cave in, posing grave risk to the lives of the students. Says Manoj Sarma, District Project Officer, and SSA. There is a lot of infrastructure problems right from the decrepit buildings to the approach road. Funds are not allocated for the repair or renovation of the centre, as it is housed in a government building.
Against the faculty strength of six Education Volunteers (EVs), the
Paid peanuts, for Rs. 6,500 per month on a purely contractual basis, the EVs have to make both ends meet to sustain their own families and to look after the basic needs of the girl students. Says Nabanita Dutta Purkayastha, who has been working at the centre as EV since August 2010. The centre is passing through a difficult phase and the condition is fast deteriorating with each passing day.
Echoing Nabanita’s views, her senior colleague Lila Begum Laskar, who has been working here since its inception, says “We have to make arrangements to take the girls afflicted with diseases and cuts and bruises to the doctors. Clinic or health
During such times, following the advent of monsoons, contagious diseases break out. Presently, five students have been sent home as they are afflicted with pox. Asks Nabanita, “What can we do other than call the parents to take their daughters home as we cannot take the risks of keeping them, fearing the spread of the contagious diseases to other students,
Though there take a mandatory rule to provide periodic health check-up at the RSTCs, there have been no such visits by the doctors from the National Health Mission, government-run health institution or the Indian Red Cross Society in the past two years.
Set up on August 30, 2008, the RSTC is also plagued with a serious problem of lack of proper toilets. The existing toilets are in shambles. However, spurred by constant prodding, three new toilets have been built by the Public Health Engineering, Hailakandi division,
There is an acute shortage of drinking water at the center. During the rainy season, the students have to carry water in buckets from the roadside, as the water tankers cannot enter because the approach road with potholes gets submerged in mud and slush.
The kerosene-run generator has also not been functioning for around five years for want of repairing. During power cuts, the sprawling compound. With many abandoned buildings, remains in pitch darkness, endangering the safety of the girl students.
The classes are held in batches from 9.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. for students of Classes- I to V in a hall-type room, with a small common room for the teachers adjacent to it. The 100-odd students squat on the floor, as there are no benches and tables visible. An 11-month condensed course is conducted here with subjects like English, Bengali, Environmental Science, Maths and other specially designed learning materials.
Nine batches of students have come out of the center since its inception. Lila says the students are not only sharp and
Says Nabanita, “Some of the alumni have come out successfully in matriculation exams and are now pursuing higher studies. The number would have swelled had the parents had the means to enable their wards to continue further studies”.