School in Metro bulldozer path

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By Showli Chakraborty
  • Published 17.02.17
Demolition underway at Mahisgote Free Primary School for Metro Rail extension.
Picture by Mayukh Sengupta

When the payloaders came rambling in last week to make way for the expansion of the New Garia-airport Metro corridor, their first target was Mahisgote Free Primary School. The school, next to the Technopolis bridge, is one of the 10 structures at the gateway of New Town that came in the path of the alignment of the route, stalling work for close to five years. 
Workers of Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), which is executing the key airport connectivity from New Garia along EM Bypass and New Town, have demolished certain sections of the school building.

The school has now been shifted to the first floor of the old panchayat building at Mahisgote Dhalipara in Ward 27. 
This, however, is a temporary arrangement. “The SDO is trying to acquire 4.5 cottahs at plot number 34 in Ward 27 itself. Once the deal is finalised construction of our new building will begin,” head teacher Ashis Biswas told The Telegraph Salt Lake. 

The school, he said, was set up in 1962 under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan scheme. It has students studying in pre-primary to Class IV.

The school has been operational on the new premises from January 23. “We had held a meeting and informed the guardians earlier about the demolition. We have students coming in from Mahisgote, Mahisbathan, New Town and Dhalipara. Some parents were angry because of the increased distance. This building is about a 25-minute walk away from the older one. The teachers are not residents of the area. Some are from Salt Lake. I come from Kestopur. For us, it is travelling another couple of bus stops further up. But for students coming from the New Town side, it is a considerable distance away,” he added.  

Students peep out of the window of the temporary school premises in the Mahasbathan panchayat building. (Showli Chakraborty)

The shift is taking its toll on parents like Madhumita Patra. The 30-year-old mother now has to travel almost 1.5km extra. “I have a one-and-a-half year-old daughter. When I come to fetch my son from school I have to carry her on my lap, since I cannot leave her behind. It is very difficult to walk such a long distance with two children. Especially now, with summer approaching, walking the distance is very tiring.”

While the school had a two-storeyed sprawling structure to itself all these years, now it has to jostle for space on the first floor of the building. This two-storey structure houses three other government offices — Mahisbathan no. 2 gram panchayat (which has now turned to Ward 27 office of the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation), Mahisbathan branch post office and Sushangata Shishu Bikaash Sheba Prokolpo, a 19-year- old one-room primary school.

There are four classrooms, one kitchen for mid-day meals and another room which serves both as office and staff room. 
If the teachers are facing a space crunch for the running of the school, the children also have nowhere to play. The old school had a courtyard. Asked about the biggest difference between the two premises, head teacher Biswas said: “There is no playground here for my children. That is a problem.” 

So even parents who live close by cannot be happy. “This new building is within walking distance of my house. But my son misses the school ground. They don’t have space to play here. This building is very small for so many students,” Bithika Dhali, 28, said. 

But with the new building still on paper, this is how the school will have to continue.