Balasore: Students of Bahanaga High School in Odisha are scared to return to their classes in the building which was turned into a temporary morgue after the triple train crash which killed 288 passengers.
Soon after the June 2 crash, shrouded bodies were carted to this 65-year-old school building.
Such is the reluctance of the young students and their parents to come back to a building associated with tragic mass death that the school management committee (SMC) has pleaded with the state government to demolish the building as it is old.
“Younger students are scared,” admitted Bahanaga High School Headmistress Pramila Swain, adding that the school planned to “conduct spiritual programmes and follow some rituals to help them overcome their fears.”
She said some senior students and NCC cadets from the school had even joined the rescue work.
Balasore district collector Dattatraya Bhausaheb Shinde, who visited the school Thursday on the directions of the school and mass education department, said, “I have met members of the school management committee, headmistress, other staff and local people. They want to demolish the old building and renovate it so that children do have any fear or apprehension to attend classes.”
A member of the SMC told the district collector that after watching the bodies lying in the school building on TV, “The children are affected and are reluctant to come to school after it reopens on June 16”.
Though the bodies have been shifted to Bhubaneswar and the school campus has been sanitised and cleaned, the students and the guardians are scared and in a state of panic.
“It is difficult to forget that so many bodies were kept in our school building,” said a student.
The SMC had initially allowed only three classrooms for the purpose. Later the district administration used the open hall of the school for keeping the bodies for identification.
“Our children are refusing to go to school and their mothers are not keen to send them to the educational institute now,” Sujit Sahoo, a guardian, said.
Some parents are also thinking of changing the educational institute instead of sending their children to Bahanaga High School.
Meanwhile, the District Education Officer (DEO), Balasore, Bishnu Charan Sutar, held a meeting with the SMC and the alumni members on Wednesday to motivate the students and the guardians so that they do not foster any negative thoughts.
“We will ensure that no student drops out of the school due to this reason,” he said.
Stating that the school and the local people have immensely contributed to the rescue and relief operation during the train accident, the DEO said,
“The people of Bahanaga are brave which has been proved during the incident.”
The district collector said he has asked the SMC to pass a resolution about their demand for the demolition of the structure and submit it to the government.
“The school building is old and often used for sheltering people during floods. Bahanaga is a flood-prone area. The school may be renovated under the ongoing transformation programme,” he said.