Schools reopen in Punjab but many kids stay on at farm protest site

1 week ago 22
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Children make anti-farm la:w posters at Singhu on Thursday. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

Even as the Punjab government has allowed all schools in the state to reopen from classes V to XII, several children continue to be part of the farmers’ protest at Singhu border in the capital.

Among the children at the border is 13-year-old Jashanpreet Singh, a class VIII student from Khairpur Jatta village in Patiala district. He had arrived with his uncle Jasvinder Singh on Wednesday. Jasvinder said the family did not hesitate to send him along despite school opening because “school abhi theek thaak se nahi khule hai”.

“Schools are functioning for 2-3 hours in a day, they have not opened properly… In our village, we are taking turns to come to the border. While we were at home, he was going to school. We came yesterday, and he did his online studies in the evening in the trolley. Once we go back to the village in about a week or 10 days, he will attend school again,” he said.

Last week, schools in Punjab reopened for classes V to VIII with optional attendance, conditional to consent from parents. Earlier in October last year, schools were allowed to re-open for classes IX to XII.

Harinder Singh, an elder member of Jashanpreet’s village, explained why many farmers have felt that it is important to include children in the protest: “It is very important that children and the younger generation see this protest. Children will learn about it — the struggle, our interests and our culture — and will one day be able to proudly say that they were a part of it,” he said.

Amarinder Singh from Punjab’s Fatehgarh district has a daughter in class VII and has received a notification from her school that it will reopen on January 18. But she is currently at Singhu with her parents who have decided they will continue to remain there.

“Our entire family has been a part of the protest for more than a month, and I’ve been the only person going back from time to time to look after work at home. We will all continue to remain here. We care about her studies but right now, we are most worried about our livelihood. She too said she wanted to join the protest with us and it is for them that we are fighting,” he said.

Many older children have been an active part of the protest throughout.

Nirmal Singh, a class XI student at a private school, and Arshpreet Singh, a class XII student at a government school, are part of a group of youngsters from their village in Bhatinda district who arrived at Singhu on January 5.

“My parents told me I should be in school but didn’t stop me from coming to Delhi. They were part of earlier groups who came here. We’re leaving tomorrow and will come back before January 26 with tractors from the village. My exams will be beginning on January 19 but I don’t think I’ll be writing them,” said Nirmal.

Arshpreet said they had been attending classes in the village and though there are online classes happening, they cannot study through the buzz of the protest.

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