Delta diaries: Cyclone Gaja flattened many schools in delta districts

Tiruvarur: When one’s house is lost, it impacts one’s lifestyle. But, when a school is lost, it collapses your livelihood – that is the importance education has in the growth of life.

Cyclone Gaja, that made landfall 15 November, devastated a lot of huts and tiled-roof houses. But it also hit a number of government and government-aided schools in the districts of Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai.

Though there were many volunteer organisations and individual groups taking up relief and rehabilitation measures to address the loss, it is still not enough. “The government has been taking steps to reconstruct the schools. But, these steps are slow as the loss is big,” said Ilayaraja, a teacher from a panchayat union middle school at Kunnur, near Tiruthuraipoondi, Tiruvarur district.

Ilayaraja and his wife J Viji, also a teacher from panchayat union middle school at Vanniyadikkomal from the same taluk, have been taking efforts to rehabilitate a lot of such schools in their locality.

“As part of our rehabilitation measures, we’re planning to reconstruct one of the government-aided schools in a village nearby that was completely devastated by Cyclone Gaja,” Ilayaraja said.

They are reaching out to Kumaran Udhavi Thuvakkapalli at Ponnirai village of Tiruthuraipoondi taluk in the district, which is an aided school whose students are from the economically weaker background. “The State government has said it would take at least a year to sanction funds for this school, that, too, only if there is money left after reconstructing all the government schools,’ Ilayaraja said with feeling, and added, ‘We cannot blame the State government for this. There is already shortage of funds.”

He informed that it’ll take at least Rs 4 to Rs 5 lakh for the reconstruction of two buildings of Kumaran school that were flattened by Gaja. “The problem is that the government has asked people using this school as relief camp to vacate and start classes. It is of no use. The only building in the school is not enough to continue the academic cycle. Also people who were asked to leave have no shelter as everything was destroyed by the cyclone,” Ilayaraja said.

Already, Ilayaraja and his volunteers have carried out rehabilitation measures for the school students. “So far, we have distributed educational kits to 89 elementary students of the school. Each kit contains a school bag, notebooks and stationery items that would last at least till the end of the academic year 2018-19,” he said.

Viji told this News Today correspondent who visited the school, “That would not be sufficient if classes start in full swing. They should get back their library building that was lost to the cyclone and one more building with classrooms.”

As mentioned by Ilayaraja, the state of government-aided schools is pathetic as they will have to wait at least two years for the government to reconstruct their buildings. “It was the same when most of the schools in the coastal villages of Nagapattinam district were affected by the tsunami in 2004. The government constructed State-run schools by sanctioning funds. But, the aided schools had to wait for a long time after all the government schools got back their buildings,” Viji recalled.

Most coastal schools have buildings constructed by corporate companies under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, pointed out Viji. “How long do you think these students can wait? We have to act fast. But we at least know about this school and are helping it to be renovated. There could be many other schools that were damaged in the devastating cyclone and there is nobody to help in its reconstruction,” she said.

Ilayaraja can be reached at 8220626842.

Santhosh Mathevan