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Students swim to school daily in hope of escaping poverty

Published:Friday | August 15, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Indian student Aruna Bariya (second left), 14, crosses the Heran River with friends to return home after attending school at Sevada village in Narmada District of Gujarat state, India. AP photos
Indian student Aruna Bariya (centre), 14, and her friends walk across the Heran River to get to their school, which is located on the other side, at Sajanpura Village in Chhota Udepur district Gujarat state, India.


It's a long, wet journey to school for 61 teenagers in part of western India. If they want to learn, they have no choice but to swim.

The boys and girls carry books, papers and changes of clothing in plastic bags or buoyant jugs as they cross the Heran River, shoulder deep in places. Parents or other adults sometimes accompany them on the 15-metre (50-foot) swim.

The girls put on their dry clothes in a small changing room, while the boys change on the riverbank.

The students then walk up to five kilometres (three miles) to their high school in Gujarat state's Narmada District. It's shorter and quicker than the alternative: A road with a bridge takes a circuitous, 25-kilometre (16-mile) route. There's no public transportation.

The students say the swim is worth it for an education that can help lift them out of poverty in India, where at least 700 million people are living on less than US$1.25 a day.

The Utavali High School principal said the students from the villages across the river are so determined to get to class, they have swum the river during heavy rain that made the currents more tumultuous.

The school is trying to accommodate them by forgiving late arrivals, and sending them home early if the weather is bad.

"We have asked for a bridge time and time again," Principal Rajendra Purohit said.