Primary school children, who often struggle to carry the school bags properly, were made to draw and carry water for mid-day meal in a government-run primary school in Kendrapara district. School children in government-run Netaji upper primary school in Kumarpada village under Mangalpur gram panchayat of Mahakalpada block trek around half-a-kilometre to draw bucketfuls of waters for the noon meal.

With hand pumps in the school lying defunct, children are engaged in manual work of this nature much to the displeasure of parents and guardians. Child rights activist expressed concern over the engagement of children in labour-intensive works during school hours and described it as an illegal and unethical practice. The school authorities are not within their right to employ children in such manual labour.

It goes against the spirit of right to education act, said rights activist, Binayak Swain. “Following the allegations, the matter is being inquired into. Disciplinary proceedings would be initiated against the errant teachers and the school headmaster on the basis of probe’s findings”, said Block Education Officer, Tanmay Kumar Behera.

The drinking water ought to have been drawn by the cook and assistant who are in charge of mid-day meal. Under no circumstances, children could be asked to draw water, he said. In a similar unsavoury episode in the past, a lady teacher of a government-run primary school under Mahakalpada block had allegedly forced girl students to look after her infant son during school hours.

The students who defied the command to learn skill of childcare were also allegedly meted out corporal punishment. In another instance, children had performed the rigorous physical work carrying bricks to building construction site in a school in Rajkanika block last year.