Today is one of those days when the children of New Eden village are coming back home, in their school uniforms, with their tiffin boxes untouched, pages of their books unturned. It’s only 10:30 am and the children could not make it to their school, once again. No, it is not like any other rainy day- this story will continue till the monsoon ends.
The village is only 3 kms from the district head quarter Senapati and little more than 60 kms from Imphal- the capital city of Manipur. Geographically, like most hill districts of Manipur, the Senapati district is quite remote. When one lands up in New Eden village, by taking the roads less travelled, one can understand how apt the name of the place is. Merely looking at the lush green valley surrounding blue hills and the beautiful Senapati River flowing in its full glory, one would forget the tiring journey through the muddy village roads. There are more than 120 people living in this village since 2006, after the village came into existence. Most of the households are occupied in farming, daily wages and small businesses. Though NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) has been implemented here; basic facilities like Anganwadi centre, healthcare centre and Govt. school etc. isn’t available. Moreover, during monsoon, the river overflows through Zion Bridge – that was constructed in 2015. Since it is a hilly river, the situation often goes out of hands. There have been reports of accidents and in 2015; a child lost his life by the swirling waves of the river. Since there is no school in the village, kids cross the bridge to reach the nearest school, which is 3 kms away from the village. Mind you 3 kms in a hilly terrain is quite a bit and imagine 7 year old Wunshinla, travelling up and down through the year. During monsoon, when the bridge is overflowing, often these children cannot attend school for a long period of time which hampers their learning and eventually compels them to drop out of school.
For over a decade, Wide Angle Social Development Organization – a CRY supported project, in association with Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR) has been engaged with the residents of the village persistently pressing the need for basic amenities for children like education, health and a safe environment to ensure that children do not go missing or trafficked.
They are working relentlessly to make 18 villages across Senapati District, ‘child friendly’. After a series of motivational sessions to build awareness, a Village Level Child Protection Committee (VLCPC) has been formed in New Eden village for the development, well being and safety of the children. It was rightly felt that the village needs a school so that the children don’t need to cross the river every time.
In Section III of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act (2009), there is a provision which states that every child between the age group of six to fourteen years has the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till the completion of elementary education. The neighbourhood school must be loacted within 1 km for Primary Education. Keeping this as a goal, the VLCPC nominated Mr. Khangak Abonmai, ex-chairman of the village authority, to spearhead the process.
Mr. Abonmai, along with members of Wide Angle and MARC started dialogue with the decision makers of the Department of Education, Manipur. Soon, an order was passed to construct a primary school in the village. It is a huge success for the residents and all the stakeholders involved and about 60 children will be impacted by the same.
The children often gather near the proposed site of the school, with eyes full of hope and dreams they await the day when the construction will start and their school will be ready.
“My friends and I are already thinking about creating some drawings and arts which we will use to decorate our school.” – says our little Wunshinla, ready to be enrolled in her new school.