BERHAMPUR: About 40 students ran away from a hostel of a government-run SC/ST school in Kandhamal district Thursday.
The pupils of sevashram (primary school) at Bhaliapani in Tumudibandh block said they are "getting a raw deal" from the headmistress. "The quality of food is very bad. When we tell her about it, she takes a non-chllanr approach. She even refuses to give us blankets and school uniforms," said a student on condition of anonymity.
The students also put up posters on the school walls, demanding the headmistress' ouster.
District authorities denied the charges. "Someone with an ill intention may have instigated the innocent children," an official said.
District welfare officer (Kandhamal) N R Kanhar and other officials rushed to the village to take stock of the situation. Kanhar said 12 students have returned to the school. "Efforts are on to bring back the others," he added.
The Bhaliapani incident follows cases reported from two kanyashrams (state-run high schools for girls) at Pakalamahala in Daringibadi block and Lingagada in Baliguda recently.
Alarmed over the spurt of cases of runaway students, the state government has asked panchayats to monitor the running of SC/ST schools. The government has also asked block development officers to hold regular meetings with panchayat representatives, headmasters and hostel superintendents to discuss various problems faced by the institutions.
"When elected representatives monitor the management of schools and discuss problems faced by teachers and students, the government can take effective measures to improve the situation," the government circular said.
The directive, however, remains only in pen and paper. Most BDOs in tribal-dominated Kandhamal district have failed to call such a meeting even as schools run by the SC/ST welfare department continue to face a host of problems, including alleged mismanagement.