The Times of India: Vijaysinh Parmar: Rajkot: Wednesday, January 23, 2013.
In a thatched hutment of Kharaghoda, a group of children sit shivering on the ground trying to brave the strong icy winds. The roof is open and sides uncovered. Water is always scarce here, but even food seems too much to ask. This is the grim picture nearly 15 Rann Shalas (schools) for children of saltpan workers' who migrate in this vast expanse of desert for work.
There are nearly 450 children of saltpan workers studying in these schools, which have been running without any basic facilities. This, despite the children having to walk nearly three kilometres daily in the wretched terrain just to study.
Nine-year-old Sunil Padaliya, a class IV student and a native of Kharaghoda, has not gone to school since three months as his family has migrated into Little Rann for work.
And there at least 23 students like him who have had to quit studies half way.
"How can we send our children to schools which don't even have a basic structure to shield them from cold? All 24 have stopped going to Rann Shalas. We will be here for eight months, but our children will have missed the school for most of the time," a saltpan worker and Sunil's uncle Narayan Padaliya said.
State government had started these Rann Shalas in Little Rann since last two years to support children of saltpan workers when they stay in Rann for eight months. The model of Rann Shalas was developed by Gantar, a non-governmental organization, which ran these schools for 17 years.
"Children have to sit on plain earth in this cold winter. There is no water to drink. Forget mid-day meal or snacks, there is no water also,'' another saltpan worker Ranshi Rapucha said.
Vishal Thakore, whose seven-year-old grandson Harpal studies in one such school, said, "If government can set up five-star facilities for Rannotsav, why can't be build schools for our children with just basic facilities."
When contacted co-ordinator of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (Surendranagar district) Mukesh Dabhi, he said they have started total 15 Rann Shalas and enrolled 450 students.
Educationists said it is the primary duty of the state government to provide free and compulsory education to children till class VIII.