The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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School kids feel protest heat
- Villagers stand by Sufia as BDO rules out police drive

Raiganj, March 26: Sufia Khatoon continues to occupy a part of the school building even as two children fell ill while attending classes under the scorching sun.

The school, however, was dismissed at 1pm instead of the usual 4pm today as headmaster Abdul Khaleq refused to take “any risk”.

The institution had come up on land donated by Sufia’s husband Zahirudddin in 1999 on the understanding that a member of his family would be given a job at the institution in Purba Islampur village, Hemtabad, 20 km form here.

With Zahiruddin dead and the district primary school council failing to keep its promise of providing a job even after so many years, Sufia along with her four children and mother-in-law had walked into the school building on Friday night, broke open the lock and settled down in one of the classrooms.

As a result, over 150 children of the primary section were forced to attend classes in the open air.

The headmaster of the school said he would wait for one more day before suspending classes. “I cannot allow the children to sit under the sun for so long,” said Khaleq. He, however, said the widow’s grievances were “genuine” and that he “supported” her movement.

Sufia said she was sorry that the children had fallen ill. “But this is my only way out. If I don’t get a job, my children will starve to death,”she said.

Sabyasachi Roy, the BDO of Hemtabad, who had discussed the situation with Prangobinda Roy, the sub-inspector of primary schools, today said no police help would be sought for the present to evict Sufia. “We will wait for the primary council and the subdivisonal officer to take the final decision,” Roy said.

Village Education Council member Fasiuddin Ahmed said Abdul Samad, a CPM leader and a member of the district primary council, had in 1999 promised Sufia, a Class VIII passout then, a job in the school for the land donated by her husband. But when the school finally started in 2001, the authorities refused to recruit her. At that time, Sufia's husband was suffering from tuberculosis. He died in 2004. “Then the authorities told her that only Madhuamik passouts would be taken. The woman, who worked as a domestic help, passed Madhyamik in 2006. But ultimately the job went to the relative of a CPM leader in March this year. This is gross injustice. We shall be by her side in her struggle,” Ahmed said.

While Samad has denied the allegations, the chairman of primary school council Dulal Sarkar said: “One cannot make any commitment on jobs. Let us see what we can do.”

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