By the time the boat arrives at their village Aynargoop, it is already jam-packed with people, many standing dangerously on the dock and prow.
“They feel very frightened to travel to school on the boat, especially during bad weather. But they don’t have any other choice, as the boat is the only mode of transportation to go to school,” they said.
The ninth grader studies in Baherbali SESDP Model High School, established in 2011 under the ‘Secondary Education Sector Development Project’ (SESDP) to support the high school education of children of Maizchar haor, a back swamp in Kishoreganj’s Bajitpur.
School dropout rate was high among the haor children mostly from poor families as they had difficulty travelling to the upazila headquarter to attend high school. It came down after Baherbali SESDP Model High School was established on the haor bed, claimed MA Kasem, headmaster of the institution.
The two-storied building of the school stands like a stranded ship in the haor water for nine months, when the institution can be reached only by boat.
Even during the dry season, students have to walk between one to three kilometres on ridges of croplands from Baherbali, Purakanda, Aynargoop, Parkachua and Boali --- five villages adjacent to the haor, said MA Kasem.
In 2015, local lawmaker Mohammd Afzal Hossain donated a boat to carry the children to and from the five villages and the students contribute between Tk 5 to Tk 10 according to their ability to run the boat daily, the headmaster added.
Each day, the boat makes several trips to transport around 300 students and nine teachers of the school, before classes start in the morning and after recess in the afternoon, informed Kasem.
Although it has a capacity of carrying 20 to 25 people per trip, now 40 to 50 passengers ride the boat in one go, he claimed.
Hailing from Boali village, eight grader Puja Rani Das, Laila, Bilkis of the school said, they have to face problems both during monsoon and dry seasons as there is no road connecting the school with the mainland.
If the communication becomes easier then enrolment of children will be increased, opined 10th grader Milon Mia of Purakandi village.
The school’s office assistant Khairul Islam Rubel, who also uses the boat, suggested connecting the villages with the school with a road culvert.
When contacted, Bajitpur Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Md Jubaer Talukder said a permanent solution will require huge expenditure but arranging for more boats could be a quick fix.
The UNO informed that they got Tk 10 lakhs as donation, eight lakhs from television personality Hanif Sangket and two lakhs from Kishoreganj’s Deputy Commissioner Sarwar Morshed Chowdhury at a recent programme in Bajitpur.
The amount will be spent for repairing and beautification work of the school and to arrange at least two more engine-run boats for the students, he said.