April 8: When students across Assam sat solving trigonometry problems a month before their first board exams, Kakoli Deka waited with bated breath for Karbis and Dimasas to stop killing each other.
An ethnic bloodbath forced authorities to close down schools before the HSLC examination, leaving hundreds of students in the conflict-ravaged Karbi Anglong district to figure out the ways and means to continue their education.
Two years after moving into a rented place in Nagaon, Kakoli and Rubli Phukon can only thank their stars that they could escape the killing fields of their homeland.
Because if they had stayed back, like numerous other hapless students, their academic career would have been as good as over.
“I could not take it anymore. Just before my HSLC examination, we lost many months as the clash between Karbis and Dimasas forced the schools to close for more than three months. In such a situation, it is impossible to go for private tuition or even speak to your classmates,” says Kakoli.
Students of Nagaon Girls College, Kakoli and Rubli are the luckier ones who can afford to rent a home.
Scores of boys arrive from various parts of Karbi Anglong every year and join urban households as “helpers” to fund their stay and education.
“Generally, private hostels and rented houses are taken by those who are from well-to-do families. You would get more than 100 students who take shelter as ‘helper’ in urban families who in return give them the chance of going to college,” says Jaysingh Terang, a student of Nagaon Government Boy’s School.
The trend has forced educationists in Nagaon to sit up and take notice.
“As many as 65 per cent seats in our college is filled up by girls from Karbi Anglong,” said Ajanta Dutta Bordoloi, principal of Nagaon Girls’ College.
Karbi Anglong has two government higher secondary schools — one in Diphu and the other in Hamren, nine provincialised higher secondary schools and 78 high schools.
“But a poor academic environment forces students to migrate from Karbi Anglong,” says Bhupen Bey.
This despite the fact that the Karbi Anglong administration spent Rs 2.5 crore recently to build 10 hostels for high and higher secondary schools.