Roumari, A Forgotten Area
Mukto-Mona Flood Rehabilitation Project 2004: Rebuilding a school in Remote Roumari in Northern part of Bangladesh
Bangladesh was once again submerged under water during 2004 flood season. This was one of the most devastating floods Bangladeshi people encountered in last decade. Mukto Mona took a small but valuable initiative to collect donation for flood affected people in Bangladesh. We collected 2, 34,205.86 taka or S$ 6836.00. through personal donations of our members and well-wishers. After initial surveys performed by Dr. Ajoy Roy and his team in North Bengal area, Mukto-Mona advisory board decided to spend the money in after flood rehabilitation program to reconstruct a school in Roumari, a remote village in Kurigram.
Dr. Ajoy Roy visited the village on Oct 27/2004 and handed over the first installment of money to the School. Please see detail report of this project below presented by Dr. Ajoy Roy. On behalf of Mukto-Mona we would like to thank everybody who donated for this cause, a special thanks goes to Dr. Ajoy Roy to make this happen.
Mukto-Mona Advisory Board
November 18, 2004
Where is Roumari ?
Pic: Kurigram district and Roumari in the map
(click on the above picture to see the details)
Roumari (sometimes written as Raumari) is a remote police station (Upazila) under Kurigram district in the north Bengal. On its north lies the district of Dhubri across the mighty Brahmaputra river and district of Goalpara on the right side of Brahmaputra, both the districts lying in the Indian state of Assam. In the east lies the range of Garo hills in Meghalaya of Indian state. In between lies a vast low land criss-crossing a few small rivers. In the south lies Dewanganj Upazila in Jamalpur district, whereas the great Brahmaputra forms the Western border or Roumari. Just across the river lies the ‘Bhaoyaia song’ famous Chilmari river port. The reader, if you are very careful, you will listen the poetic song ‘Hakao Gari Chilirmari Bandar, …. Oh Garial Bhai, …' in the lyrical murmur sounds of Brahmaputra when it is calm. Roumari was once a big char Island in the vast Brahmaputra riverbed, say more than 400 years ago. The eastern branch of Brahmaputra forming the natural boundary with present Meghalaya dried up gradually as a result of changing course of the river forming a vast low land. In the process the southern part of the island too, once separated from the eastern Bengal, which now forms the Rajibpur police station, joined with Dewanganj Upazila of Jamalpur district. The river Gingiram now separates Roumari-Rajibpur from the mainland.
Arrival at Roumari
Pic: Eternal Bangladesh as seen in Roumari
We arrived at Roumari by a microbus at about 3-30 p.m. on 28th October 2004 after traveling through Mymensigh, Sherpur, and Shribardi (within Sherpur), and Baksiganj (in Dewanganj) covering a distance not less than 400 km, and crossing the river Gingiram that separates Roumari from rest of eastern part of Bangladesh by shallow engine driven country boat. I left Dhaka at 7-30 am with an young journalist friend Shaiful Islam Tapan and a local guide from Khedaimari, Janab Khaleque, a dedicated social worker of the locality. The condition of road I describe better not. Our Bangladesh Government with his big face, high sounding utterances, and sky height talks is busy constructing flyovers with millions of taka and wasting crores of taka on so called beatification of Dhaka, and planning to introduce magnetic railway system (when the conventional railway system has become practically non existent), but he has no money to repair inter-district highways, lanes and by lanes within the cities including metropolitan cities like Dhaka, Khulna, Chittagong and Rajshahi. The condition of roads made our distance from Dhaka to Roumari double if not more. The distance from Dhaka to Roumari would not be less than 400 km. Anyway we reached Roumari tired and exhausted. We were received by the local elites and social workers.
We met in a local C. G. Zaman high school hall with the local people organized by local committee of ‘Siskha Andolan Manch’ largely attended by school and college teachers, social workers, cultural personalities and local elites. We had an exchange of opinions on various aspects of educational-cultural-social problems of the locality. The meeting, presided over by a senior teacher of the school Mr. Mujibar Rahman, was addressed among others Mr. Azizul Haq Master, erstwhile head master of the school and a freedom fighter, well known cultural and political personality of the locality Mr. Abdus Sabur Faruqui, Advocate Amzad Hosain of Kurigram Judge court, Mr. Abdul Hai, lecturer in Chemistry of Roumari Girls’ College, Shri Shubhransu Chakaraborty, a well known and very popular socio cultural personality of the Kurigram-Chilmari-Roumari. The meeting was followed by a good iftar. We spend the night at the newly constructed Upazila rest house.
Next morning we proceeded towards are main destiny, Khedaimari village, a char-island in the Brahmaputra river, a distance of 20-25 km we have to cover after crossing Halholiya river, a branch of Brahmaputra. We left Roumari around 9 a.m. with a team consisting of 24 persons on 11 motorbikes. This is the only way to access Khedaimari as river way by country boat has been suspended since September. Other alternative is to walk down. I was placed on the back of a bike to be driven by an energetic & stout young man. He assured me of safe drive and showed me how to hold him, with the assuring utterance, ‘Sir hold me tight this way. You are safe in my hand.’ Not that I am a novice, but my age and health concerned them. We drove few kilometers north through Roumari-Dantbhanga broken metal road (so-called), and then a few kilometers west by kachha but relatively smooth road. Finally we arrived at the ‘Holholyia’ river ghat. We crossed the river with shallow engine driven country boat within 10 minutes following a zigzag course. My young driver cautioned me that our real journey henceforth began. We drove through paddy fields, some times muddy, and riverbanks etc east-west south and north, then finally south. There are practically no roads, except some kachha roads here and there. After covering about 25 km we arrived at the Khedaimari junior high school at 11-30 a.m.
A Few Hours at Village Khedaimari
The local leaders of the village community with warm greetings received us. The local elite arranged a small function in one of the class room which in honor of visit. Needless to say, I was not only embarrassed but felt very humiliated. We first met with the school committee headed by the chairman, Advocate Amzad Hosain of Kurigram Judge court. We discussed the problem the schooling was facing. They have chalked out a program to restart the school, which was suspended because of flood and economic crisis. I asked them how Mukto-Mona and ’Sisksha Andolan Manch’ could cooperate in their program. They want us to help them financially not only in the form of some lump donation, but a continued support for at least three years. The head master, Mr Shaiful Islam Babul handed over a draft budget prepared by the committee to me.
Pic: School territory when MM rehabilitation project was just undertaken
The school campus is very beautiful, an ideal place for a school. It is located on an open rectangular field of ~ one acre high land spread with slightly lengthened north-south. The land was donated by a local well to do cultivator family out of love for education. The family set an good example for all of us by not giving any condition or attaching any string for the donation he made that the school should be named as so and so .. , which our ministers, political elites do in their locality. School started with a single tin-shade cottage with three or four class rooms having a five-six feet verandah erected on the northern side of the field on a mud base one or two feet lower compared to the base of the main filed. The cottage stands on narrow concrete pillars with bamboo-made fence. A few years back the CARE, an well known NGO, at the request of the local leaders of Khedaimari-Roumari-Kurigram, led by Advocate Amzad Hosain and others constructed two big flood shelters. When the school was established, CARE handed over the two buildings to the school authority permanently to be used as school buildings at the request of the school committee. Two buildings, identical in construction, erected on heavy concrete pillars with tin-shed and fence made of also tin. The school committee made the necessary modification to convert the buildings as school buildings. Each building has 4 classrooms of 15x15 sq.ft. plus a office; each class room was furnished with bench and chairs and black board. In one word, school had all the minimum facilities. Unfortunately the local people failed to provide necessary financial support to run the school. And flood devastation caused suspension of the school activities, though not completely. However many students left it because better poor condition of the school.
Damage and loss incurred because of repeated floods
The old school suffered heavily, its tins were blown away, although some could be recovered. The bamboo fence completely destroyed and the furniture, and the floor heavily damaged, because of kachha base made of mud. The other two buildings however did not suffer much loss. There was some damage on the tin fence. The main loss however incurred in damage of furniture. They need immediately new furniture for the class. The total loss, as estimated by the school committee would be around Tk 2 lakhs or so. Some renovation work has already been undertaken i.e. necessary repair of the fences of the new buildings and some furniture purchased. But they could not yet touch the repair of the old school bhaban. A new head master and an assistant teacher have been appointed. The school authority stressed that from January 1, 2005 the school would start function with full vigor if we stand behind them. I promised to the school authority on behalf of Mukto-Mona to provide necessary support to stand the school on its own footing, and continue to support even after this immediate relief. (kindly see the attached budget)
Function at Khedamari School
Pic: Dr. Ajoy Roy (3rd from the left) attends school's inauguration ceremony on behalf of Mukto-Mona
A small & simple function was held in honour of my visit to the locality. The banner reads as
“Khedaimari Nimna Madhyamik Vidyalay
Desh Barenya Sikshabid
Dr. Ajoy Roy er Shubhagaman uplakshaye
At the beginning of the function our journalist friend Tapan gave a brief introduction of Mukto-Mona with and its humanitarian activities with special emphasis of its effort to collect fund for participating in post rehabilitation project related to education. He said that members of Mukto-Mona ‘are your sons and daughters’. The meeting was addressed by local elites those include Messers Alimul Haque, a local leader, Jasimuddin, Head master, Char Shoulmari High School, Shaiful Islam, Head master Khedaimari Lower secondary School, Azizul Haq Sarkar, Ex Head master, Roumari C. G. Zaman and High school and Shubhranbsu. Advocate Amzad Hosain, Chairman of the school committee presided the meeting, whereas Janab Abdul Aziz, a member of the school committee, conducted it. In my speech I thanked local people and the school committee and expressed my gratitude for giving us (the Mukto-Mona and Siksha Andalon Manch) a unique opportunity in ‘your effort to reconstruction and revalidation of the school’, to participate. I assured them on behalf of the Mukto-Mona that we ‘will give you a continued support within our limitation in reconstruction and reestablishment of the school.’ I ended my speech with handing over a cheque of sum of Tk 100,500/- (Taka One lakh five hundred) only formally to Advocate Mr. Amzad Hosain, Chairman of the School Committee on behalf of MUKTO-MONA with amidst applause.
Pic: MM cheque worth Taka 100,500 being handed over to the chairman of school committee
The chairman then declared the function closed at 1-30 pm after making his concluding speech in which he thanked us on behalf of the common and simple people of Khedaimari for making such a good gesture on our part. They could not think of such gesture even in dream.
Village Khedaimari is a big char, elongated north-south, being divided into three parts, the north Khedaimari, the middle Khedaimari and the South Khedaimari. It is within the Union of Bandber under Roumari Upazila. The school is located at South Khedaimari. The Char is located on the bank of Brahmaputra about 2 km away. The River Halholiya separates Khedaimari from main Roumari. After the function we went to see the river Brahmaputra. It is a scenic beauty. On the bank, vast never ending green paddy fields on one side and the mighty river would make you feel here lies ‘Jibanananda’s Bangla’, our motherland.
On our way back from the riverside, we were entertained by head master of Khedaimari Primary School as well as the Head master of Khedaimari Lower Secondary School even in Ramadan days. We must have acquired many sins.
Pic: Dr. Ajoy Roy among the school children (read budding Mukto-Mona!)
We finally returned to Roumari safely at about 3-30 pm retracing the same roads (?) and enjoying the same thrilling experience, but not before seeing the Dantbhanga, a northern most tip of border with Asam, the place is famous for a special kind of semi brown Rosgolla. Surely I bought a few kg for my family, friends and relatives- carrying a sweet memory (as sweet as the Rosgollas) of visit of Roumari-Khedaimari.
Draft Budget for Reconstruction & Restart of the School from January 1, 2005 with full vigor
Name of the School: Khedaimari Nimna Madhyamik Bidyalaya (Khedaimari lower Secondary School)
Chairman of the School Committee: Advocate Amzad Hosain
Head Master: Janab Shaiful Islam
- Reconstruction of old school Bhavan and other minor repairs: Tk 50,000/-
- Revenue of the land: Tk 1,000/-
- Salary : (a) 2 assistant teachers @ Tk 1000 pm for two years: Tk 48,000/-
- (b) 1 clerical staff @ Tk 500/- pm for 2 years : 12,000/-
- Furniture to bought and repaired : Tk 50,000/-
- Stationeries Tk 5,000/-
- Set up a library (books & furniture) : 35,000/-
Total : Tk 2,37,000/- (Two lakhs thirty seven thousand) only *
* I have handed over a sum of Tk. 100,500 (one lakh five hundred) only to start the reconstruction work. The school authority has already renovated one school building with some furniture, in which classes are now being held.
On behalf of Mukto-Mona
We convey our sincere thanks to our members and well-wishers who helped us to make our project successful :
A humanitarian appeal from MM
Please Help the Flood stricken Bangladesh People
Check out the Donor List for this project.
Thanks for your generosity
MM news on Bangladesh Flood Situation (old archive)
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