Dow Hill, a prominent school in Kurseong where the local economy depends on the contribution of the educational institutes
Kalimpong, Feb. 10: Schools in the hills were plunged into uncertainly today with Gorkha Janmukti Morcha chief Bimal Gurung “requesting” students who were not from Darjeeling to delay their arrival for the new academic session by a “few days” for “their own good”.
The schools in the Darjeeling hills will reopen for the new session from next week onwards. The academic session in the hill schools is from February/March to November/December.
In extending support to the student wing of the party which had made the same appeal yesterday, Gurung today signalled that the Morcha was all set to intensify its agitation against the administration for withholding permission to hold a rally in Siliguri.
Morcha sources said the “intensified agitation” could also lead to the closure of the hill schools, an eventuality that institutions here said would be “an absolute disaster” as the board examinations were about to begin.
Talking to reporters here today, Gurung said: “We can’t take risk with students from outside. The Vidhyarthi Morcha has embarked on an agitation to exercise its democratic rights. It would mean hostels, too, could be in trouble.”
The Morcha chief, however, made it clear that the outstation students were only being advised to delay their arrival by a “few days”, and they would be welcomed back once the situation stabilised.
“Our only intention is to protect the students from outside. Otherwise, education will go on as normal,” he said.
Later, interacting with a delegation of the party’s education monitoring cell and the Kalimpong unit of the Janmukti Secondary Teachers’ Organisation, Gurung is understood to have clarified that those outstation students who will appear in various examinations should come and write their papers. While ISC and ICSE examinations are scheduled to begin on February15 and March 3 respectively, the Madhyamik examination will start on February 23.
Heads of institutions and teachers are worried by the sudden turn of events before the start of the new session. All those The Telegraph spoke to were unanimous in their opinion that the advisory, however well-intended, could not have been so ill-timed. “This has come at a time when the new academic year is about to begin. Parents will naturally be wary of sending their wards to schools in the hills, and instead begin looking for alternative places,” said a teacher.
According to rough estimates, about 6,000 outstation students study in the 10-odd schools — Dr Graham’s Homes, St Joseph’s Convent and Rockvale Academy to name a few — and the four institutes of higher education in Kalimpong.
The majority of outstation students in the schools here are from Bangladesh, Nepal and Sikkim, while Bhutanese constitute the largest block in the two regular colleges — Kalimpong College and Cluny Women’s College — and the two management institutes, Good Shepherd Institute of Hospitality Management and B.B. Pradhan Management
In fact, the education sector is a major contributor to the local economy, benefiting diverse sections of the population.
“Unlike in Darjeeling, the contribution of the educational institutes to the economies of Kalimpong and Kurseong is far greater than even tourism. As in tourism, a wide section of the population finds gainful employment in the education sector as well. Transporters, assorted business establishments, hostel owners, hotels; they all gain from the education sector,” said an educationist.