Darjeeling, September 16, 2017: A silent protest rally took to the streets in Kurseong on Saturday against the closure of schools in the Hills.
With the Gorkhaland agitation and an indefinite bandh in the Hills, education institutes have also been shut down.The ongoing unrest in the Hills has dealt a major blow to the image of Darjeeling as an education hub. The boarders coming to these schools from all over the country and also from different parts of the continent, contribute largely to the economy of the Hills.
The economy of Darjeeling is already in shambles with the tea industry in doldrums. The same fate is reserved for the tourism industry. “With the ongoing unrest we fear that that the Hill schools will witness withdrawals once again. It will take many years to repair the damage” feels Robindra Subba, Director, Himali Boarding School, Kurseong.
Such has been the plight of the schools, unsure of how to complete the board examination syllabus that they were compelled to open up study centers in the plains of Siliguri for the boarders. The day scholars attend coaching classes run by the schools outside the school campus.
The students attend in fancy dresses and not in school uniforms. However even the tuition centers have been facing flak from the agitators. In Kalimpong a vehicle ferrying school students to the hospital was vandalized on Thursday.
GJM President Bimal Gurung who at present is underground has declared that the students need to sacrifice a year or a year and a half of school in lieu of a bright future in the shape of Gorkhaland.
“Let us not have to force the schools shut” retorted Gurung in a voice clip sent to media persons from an undisclosed location. His warnings come at a time when the State Government has pressurized some schools to open up.
On Saturday a silent rally was taken out in Kurseong town by teaching and non teaching staff of Kurseong schools. The rally carrying a banner “Gorkhaland is our constitutional right; Education is our fundamental right” and placards commenced from the Kurseong tourist lodge and culminated at the motor stand.
Chetan Tiwari, Director of St. Anthony’s School, Kurseong stated “Education is like emergency services and should be kept outside the purview of bandhs. We all support the Gorkhaland demand but education is equally important.”
In Darjeeling, the district administration using the public address system appealed to all the schools to commence from Monday. Already teachers are attending schools in Government and Government aided schools.
Father Kinley, an educationist, summing up, stated “This strike will go down in history as the death knell of the boarding schools in the hills. The 80s agitation took away the erstwhile boarders and we saw a new breed of boarders. The 2007 agitation added fuel to the fire and the Siliguri schools who were vying for these boarders benefited from the loss of Darjeeling. This agitation will definitely put some schools out of the education map of Darjeeling. I am sure if the schools are run well, eventually students will return but no more are we going to get back our former Darjeeling loyalist and Darjeeling lovers.”