Floods leave future of Sunamganj students reeling as teachers struggle for answers

As the others rushed to save household possessions when floodwaters began creeping into the house, Rabeya Akter and Taslima Akter grabbed their books in a desperate bid to safeguard their education from being ruined.

Masum Billah>> from Sunamganjbdnews24.com
Published : 3 July 2022, 08:07 PM
Updated : 3 July 2022, 08:07 PM

They were able to rescue some of the books belonging to the five siblings by holding them above their heads while most of them vanished under water.

Rabeya’s worries far exceeded the others’ as she was supposed to sit school-leaving SSC examinations on Jun 19, three days after the floods began wreaking havoc.

She is a candidate from Shaktiar Khola High School in Bishwambarpur Upazila where Taslima is a ninth-grader.

On Saturday, Rabeya went to her school for information about when the exams will be held or when the school will reopen. But all she saw was teachers drying the registration cards

of students out in the sun. The teachers had no answers for her.

“They [teachers] are trying to get the books [we lost], but they’re not sure about that either,” Rabeya said.

Rabeya, a student in the humanities stream, said as many as 165 students from her school were supposed to take the SSC tests this year.

The girls have to take a five-minute boat ride from their wetland-surrounded home in Madhupur village to Bishwambarpur-Tahirpur road. It's a half-an-hour walk to the school from there.

On their way back home by boat on Saturday, Rabeya and Taslima said the school was inundated by waist-level water.

District Education Officer Jahangir Alam said most of the schools in the district suffered a similar fate as Shaktial Khola High School.

The overflowing haor or wetland has taken over the road at Ompur village in the South Badaghat area of Sunamganj's Bishwambarpur, making it impossible to distinguish the haor and the road. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

“Books, documents, chairs, tables and furniture in most of these schools are in ruins. In other places, computer and science labs were also damaged. The schools are shut now. In some places, the schools have provided shelter to the flood-affected people,” he said.

“The losses are huge. We're yet to determine the full extent of the damage. We’ll look into it more closely after Eid. Maybe we’ll open the schools then.”

Jahangir said the district education officer oversees 233 secondary schools, 33 colleges and 91 madrasas in the Sunamganj.

SM Abdur Rahman, the district primary education officer, said they are yet to assess the scale of devastation to 1,475 primary schools. Almost 400,000 students study in these institutions.”

A family crosses a flooded road at Ompur village in South Badaghat in Bishwambarpur on a motorcycle with a child sitting in front. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

“The floodwater is yet to recede in some places, including remote areas, while the [flood-affected people] haven’t left the centres in other areas.”

The schools were scheduled to be shut for 21 days from Jun 26 for Eid but the closure began on Jun 16 due to the floods, Abdur Rahman said.

He said they will hand out books to students after the schools reopen from a divisional stock to try and compensate for the damage caused by the flooding.

This abrupt break in study follows a two-year shutdown of schools due to the pandemic, which was a big cause for concern to Taslima.

“Even the teachers can’t tell what they can do for us,” she said with a sigh.

Takbir Hossain, who lives in Sreepur surrounded by wetlands in Tahirpur Upazila, was unable to sit for two half-yearly exams due to the floods. He is a 10th grader at Lamagaon Moazzampur High School.

An old woman wades across hundreds of metres of flooded road stretching from Bagmara point in Bishwambarpur to Durgapur Mokam Bari. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

It takes him almost half an hour to reach school past the Tanguar Haor on an engine-driven boat from his home. So he chooses to stay with his maternal aunt, who lives in the school area, most of the time.

He arrived at the home on Jun 16 following an exam and got stuck in the flooding. But the waters had yet to flood the school premises as it was a bit higher. The teachers went ahead with the exams for Jun 17 and 18 with Takbir stranded at home.

He witnessed the floodwater sweeping away their household stuff as he struggled to save them.

“We’ve lost almost everything in the floods except for our lives. We've to survive with only that.”

[Additional reporting by Shams Shamim in Sunamganj; writing in English by Syed Mahmud Onindo]

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher