Parents have refused to send their children to the Government Nodal High School in Bahanaga, where the bodies of the train accident victims were kept for a day, fearing it is “haunted”.
Balasore district collector Dattatraya Bhausaheb Shinde on Thursday said he would forward to the state government the demand — made by the parents and endorsed by school authorities — to have the school building demolished and a new one built.
He, however, asked the public to introspect whether schoolchildren should be injected with “superstition” about ghosts instead of being encouraged to develop a “scientific temper”.
After the triple-train crash at Bahanaga Bazar station on June 2 evening, the bodies and many of the injured were brought to the school, also known as Bahanaga High School.
The school is located half a kilometre from the site of the accident, which killed 288 people and injured hundreds.
“The bodies were kept in 7 of the 16 classrooms, turning the school virtually into a morgue. The injured were kept in the other rooms,” Rajaram Mohapatra, a member of the school management committee, told The Telegraph.
The bodies were sent to various morgues in Bhubaneswar on June 3 night.
“The school was to reopen (after the summer vacation) on June 19, but the parents will not send their children until the building is demolished. The building is already 67 years old and would have needed to be demolished anyway,” Mohapatra said.
“We don’t believe in ghosts but the parents here do. Belief in sorcery too is widespread here. They (those who live near the school) claim to have heard odd noises after midnight.”
The school was set up as a primary school in 1956 before being upgraded to a secondary school in 1958. It has 565 students from Class I to X.
Headmistress Pramila Swain said: “I had never before seen such a large number of dead bodies together. Even I feel somewhat weird nowadays while coming to the school for the daily inspections.”
On the school authorities’ decision to have the building pulled down, she said: “We need to prioritise the psychology of the parents and the children.”
Collector Shinde, who visited the school on Thursday morning, said: “I met the school management committee, staff and local people. They all suggested the building be demolished.
“I have told the committee to pass an official resolution. Once they forward the resolution, it will be sent to the state government. I hope the state government will respect the decision of the school management committee.”
The school committee passed the resolution on Thursday evening and forwarded it to the district administration.
The school authorities are banking on help from local villagers to make temporary arrangements at an alternative site for the classes to be held till a new school building comes up.
Shinde appealed to the public not to spread rumours about the presence of ghosts at the school. “There are no such things as ghosts. We should not inject such stuff into the minds of the children, we must stay away from superstition,” he said.
“We must reflect on where we are taking our children. There is a laboratory in the school — we need to develop a scientific temper among our children.”