Indian pupils brave daily river dip to get to class 20 kms away

SAJJANPURA, India (AFP) - Shivering with cold, a group of boys in a remote village of western India put on their uniforms after swimming across a river to make it to school.

It's a morning ritual for the students of far-flung Chottaudepur district in Gujarat state.

Boys and girls have no option but to plunge into the cold waters of the Hiran river, which has no bridge.

The alternative would be a 20-kilometre journey on foot.

The boys can take off their uniform before getting into the river, but girls are not so lucky, and must swim with their uniforms on.

Since there are no changing rooms, the girls are unable to take off their wet clothes and wear them in the classroom.

"The children keep falling sick. They can't afford to miss school and look what they have to go through each day," village elder Ram Singh told AFP.

The villagers in the tribal area blame official apathy for their plight, saying plans to construct a bridge remain only on paper.

"Time and again we have requested the authorities look into our problems but nothing has happened so far," Mr Singh said.

He added, however, he held on to hopes a bridge would be constructed sooner rather than later.

"We have heard that they have finalised the cost estimates for the bridge. Once it is in place, it will change our lives."

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