These children used to wander in the forest area to collect firewood which made them susceptible prey for wild animals, before the schools were set up by the forest department officials (Representational image)
The schools — one located in Motipur and another in Barda areas of the forest reserve — impart education together to around 350 children, most of them aged between seven and 10
’Mowgli Schools’, set up deep in the Dudhwa-Katarniya forest area here, have become an oasis of learning for children of forest dwellers.
The schools — one located in Motipur and another in Barda areas of the forest reserve — impart education together to around 350 children, most of them aged between seven and 10.
These children used to wander in the forest area to collect firewood which made them susceptible prey for wild animals, before the schools were set up by the forest department officials.
Named after the main character “Mowgli” of Rudyard Kipling’s ’The Jungle Book’, the schools operate in the evening from forest department buildings.
“The children are provided with colourful books, comics, sports items, and are also shown cartoons. The schools are run more like tuition centres where children from nearby areas come in the evening and study,” said Akashdeep Badhawan, Divisional Forest Officer.
Forest department officials said most of the children are from marginalised families.
They help their parents in farms during the day and in the evening come to school, the officials said.
Earlier, these children use to venture inside the forest in the evening to collect firewood or simply play that made them susceptible prey for wild animals especially big cats like leopards.
Located along the Indo-Nepal border, the Dudhwa-Katarniya forest area is a hotspot of man-animal conflict and many cases have even been reported where leopards killed locals, the officials said.
The idea of ‘Mowgli Schools’ took birth five years ago.
“The idea is to prevent the children from venturing into the forest by providing them a safe place to play and learn. The number of students in schools has increased over the years. We want the children of the area to become an important part of the society rather than becoming a victim of man-animal conflict,” Badhawan said.
The children are also taught about the ecology of the area and various animals residing in the reserve.
Though there is a dedicated teacher at both schools, forest officials, veterinary experts, Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) personnel and other government officials also volunteer and take classes.
“The parents and other villagers after seeing the educational development of the children are supporting the initiative,” the DFO said.
The forest department gets support from the World Wildlife Fund (WFF) and other social organisations to run the schools. These organisations donate teaching equipment, projectors, books and sports items to the schools on regular basis, he said.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)