Parents and students of over 45 residential schools in the hill district of Darjeeling in West Bengal are in a quandary over the future of their children, as the hills continue to remain under complete shutdown for over 75 days now.  

Paromita Deb, mother of a Class 9 student studying in one of the reputed residential schools in Kalimpong in Darjeeling, is worried about the future of her daughter as the school has been shut ever since the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha had called for an indefinite strike in the hills during early June this year. Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, she said, “My daughter is missing out on important lessons since the schools are not being able to hold classes due to the strike. This is a crucial year for her and the ICSE registrations will also have to be completed for her by September this year. We do not know how that will be done. Her other friends, who are studying in the plains, have moved way ahead of her and this is impacting her studies. We are afraid that she might have to lose a year as annual exams in the hill schools are generally held by mid-November.”

Shilpi Nag, a resident of Kolkata and a Class 10 student studying in a boarding school in Kurseong, is apprehensive about how she would be able to complete her syllabus all by herself as she will be appearing for the ICSE board exams this year. She said, “We had just been able to go half way through our syllabus, when the strike was called. We had to move down to the plains, but now with over two months and no respite in the offing, we are all scared for our board exams. This is a crucial year in our life, but now it seems choosing schools in the hills was not a good decision.” 

Some 45 residential schools in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong had to be shut since an indefinite strike was called in June by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha in Darjeeling, putting the fate of over 20,000 students in jeopardy as they were rushed to the plains during a relaxation window offered by the party to students for them to be moved to safer locations. 

While many bigger schools like St Pauls Mount Hermon, and Goethals Memorial are planning to arrange classes for their Classes 10 and 12 students in the plains in Siliguri, some schools are keeping in touch with their students through the school website and social media to inform them about how they can utilise this period to study through various means available at their disposal. 

With over 2,500 students waiting to appear for boards this year, the Association of ICSE schools in West Bengal has called for all member schools in the plains to cooperate with the affected students. 

The Association has around 285 member schools in West Bengal. Nabarun De, secretary of the Association of ICSE schools in West Bengal, said, “We have asked all our member schools to help the affected students of Classes 10 and 12 as they will have to appear for their board exams. They need to finish their syllabus. It is a gesture of help and brotherhood, wherein a student who was studying in any of the hill schools would be able to attend classes in a nearby ICSE school that is a member of our association in his/her own school uniform without paying a single penny as school or tuition fees.”

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