Not only do they undertake the long journey every day, Adibari Sisa and Manguli Muduli, both 17 and residents of Dumuripada village in Khairput block, have got their brothers to build them a shed atop the hill to protect themselves from rain and heat during the classes.
Adibari and Manguli are both Plus II second-year students of science at the Government SSD Higher Secondary School in Govindpally. Their school started offering online classes on July 13, after a trial run from July 10. Classes are held daily for an hour, except on Sundays.
“Since July 13, we have been walking up the forested path to our hilltop classroom,” said Adibari. Neither rain nor the scorching heat has stopped them from undertaking this arduous trek every day. Even the presence of snakes in the area hasn’t deterred them from the pursuit of education.
The school conducts classes on Google Meet. Different subjects like physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, mathematics, and English are taught over the six days of the week.
Adibari’s sister and mother pooled money to buy her a smartphone, while Manguli uses her brother’s for the classes. The girls are particularly fond of botany and zoology and want to take up nursing as a career. “We want to take care of patients,” said Manguli, adding that they were aware of Covid-19 and its implications. “It’s a pandemic and we have to frequently wash our hands, wear masks and maintain social distance to keep it at bay,” said Adibari.
Principal Chaitanya Nali lauded the enthusiasm of the girls. “Walking down a forested path on a sloping terrain to attend classes reflects their immense interest in their studies,” he said. “After the school reopens, the students will have practical classes. We have already started preparing for this,” said Ashok Kumar Swarnakar, junior lecturer in botany in the school.
The Bonda community, to which the girls belong, is a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG). The Bonda hills of Malkangiri are home to 7,000 to 8,000 Bondas living in 33 revenue villages and five hamlets under two panchayats.
“After the outbreak of the pandemic, the district administration carried out door-to-door thermal screening of the Bondas in villages that are accessible. All have tested negative,” said block development officer of Khairaput Hruda Ranjan Sahoo.