Darjeeling, July 2, 2017: Caught in the indefinite bandh the Hill schools have decided to extend the summer vacations till situation normalizes. The boarding schools were slated to open this week.
The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on an agitation path has clamped an indefinite bandh in the Hills of North Bengal since June 15. Most of the Hills schools closed down for summer vacation on June 23.
The GJM had provided a 12 hour window allowing vehicles to ferry boarders from the Hill schools to the plains of Siliguri on that day. The schools had then escorted the boarders to Siliguri from where parents and guardians had collected their wards.
"With the bandh continuing we cannot take chances of bringing the boarders back to the schools. Hence we have extended the vacations till further notice. Only after the situation normalizes will we resume classes. If the bandh continues for long then we will have to hold classes during winter and cut down on the winter vacation" stated Father Shajumon, Rector, St. Joseph's school, North Point, Darjeeling.
St. Joseph's school was founded in 1888 by the Jesuits. The school has 520 boarders and 580 day scholars. Classes were scheduled to resume on July 4 after the summer vacation.
Same is the condition of all the Hill schools.
"We have notified the parents and even posted on our official website along with the social network groups that the vacations will continue till further notice. Only after the situation normalizes will we decide on a date to reopen" stated Partha Pratim Dey, Senior Mater, Mount Hermon School, Darjeeling.
Students from all over the globe study in boarding schools in Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong. Unrests in the Hills have dealt a blow to the image of Darjeeling as an education hub. Schools fear that if unrests continue there will be mass withdrawals from the schools.
"It took many years to normalize the situation that had been effected by earlier agitations. This year most of the boarding schools in Kurseong had full student strength. Now it will take many years to undo the damage caused by the present unrest" stated Robindro Subba, Director, Himali Boarding School, Kurseong.
The parents of the boarders are bearing the brunt of the ongoing agitation.
"My son is in class 10. This is a very important academic year for his career. I am worried about his academics getting affected owing to the agitation. In Nepal we do not have ICSE schools otherwise I would have withdrawn him and put him in a school in Nepal" stated a parent from Nepal whose son studies in a Darjeeling school.
For many the uncertainty has compounded the problems.
"Usually the school calendar is fixed well in advance. Accordingly travel plans are made in advance along with the tickets for the vacations. We have had to cancel the tickets. As soon as we are informed as to when schools will reopen we will have to make fresh tickets for our wards to travel to Darjeeling." stated Sanjay Roy of Kolkata whose son studies in class 11 in a Hill school.