The burgeoning issue of human-elephants conflict (HEC) in various parts of Assam has, besides causing hardship to life and livelihood for a sizeable section of the population, disrupted education for young children in some of the hotspots where wild elephants tend to force into school premises posing threat to the property and life of students alike.
Solar fence was installed around 331 No.2 Nonke Sonajuli L.P. School, Revenue village No. 2 at Sonajuli under Khairabari Educational Block in Udalguri District.
As part of its pilot initiative to show the way for mitigation of the HEC and facilitate coexistence around such schools, a Guwahati-based biodiversity conservation organization recently installed solar fences around two LP Schools and an Anganwadi Centre to facilitate uninterrupted education to young children of those areas.
Two Lower Primary Schools, one each from HEC-affected pockets of Udalguri and Goalpara districts of Assam, and an Anganwadi Centre have been shielded with solar-powered fences so that education for at least 145 children can continue.
The school has 30 Assamese-medium students and 25 Bodo-medium students. An Anganwadi center with 30 children attached to this school has also been protected by the fence. This way education for 85 children has been facilitated by the solar fence that is expected to keep wild elephants off the school campus.
Elephants have been causing damage to the school premises since 2018. The school building was damaged eleven times from 2018 to 2023 with elephants barging into it to devour the rice, lentil, salt, vegetables, and other foodstuff stored in the kitchen for mid-day meals. Besides the kitchen, class classrooms' walls too were damaged.
The headmistress said on three occasions so far, elephants had entered the school while the children were taking mid-day-meal and the teachers somehow managed to save the lives of the children and themselves as well.
On several occasions, the teachers along with the students had to flee the school campus to escape attack by elephants. At present, the school authority has stopped keeping foodstuff inside the school building. The elephant attack occurred on August 29 this year when the kitchen room of the school along with the wall of a class room were damaged.
Due to the increasing conflict, attendance of school students has reduced by almost 50%. The total number of students came down to 26 from 60 plus. Parents are no longer allowing their children to attend the school out of fear.
The biodiversity conservation organization team installed a single-strand solar fence that covered the school premises on September 5 this year with the support of the local community. The Aaranyak team led by Anjan Baruah included Ripunjoy Nath and Rupam Gayary and was supported by the Kasibari-Koachpara local community during the installation of the fence.
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