Zero year for 3m after cyclone

14th January 2000 at 00:00
INDIA: Suchitra Behal and Hasan Suroor report on efforts to restore schooling

in the striken state of Orissa.

NEARLY three million schoolchildren in the eastern state of Orissa face the loss of an academic year in the aftermath of the supercyclone which struck in November.

Two government-appointed assessors who visited the state to chart the cyclone damage to schools have compiled a grim report. Ira Joshi, Delhi state's director of education, said two million primary, 600,000 upper-primary and 200,000 high-school children could no longer attend classes.

The state education office has said that it will prioritise work to restore services for students who have high-school-leaving examinations in March.

The cyclone has washed away many school buildings and the National Literacy Mission believes it may cost pound;50 million to replace them. However, the assessment team has allocated pound;43m for the work.

The education system has collapsed in 14 districts. The three worst-affected areas are Jagat Singhpur, Kendra Bara and Ganjum.

Officials said that the task of building the state's education system was gigantic.

The main problem wa how to get the children back to school as families had been scattered or had been moved away from home in rescue efforts.

Officials said that it was difficult to get children to attend school at the best of times and that, after the cyclone, the priority of most families was not education.

The Orissa government is also contemplating declaring a "zero academic year" for the cyclone-hit areas - schools would promote children to the next session without sitting a formal examination.

In the meantime, the focus will be on supplying textbooks, blackboards and chalk and restarting the schools. The government is also planning to re-introduce the midday meal scheme with the help of the World Food Programme.

The state government has advised district education officials to restart teaching programmes in tents or even under a tree if necessary.

The government is devising a new curriculum for the new academic year in Orissa starting in July, concentrating on work experience and developing job-related skills.

The plan is to allow for more flexibility in the choice of courses and the introduction of information technology courses.

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