HUMLA, July 12: Young children carrying timber on their backs from Dadafya to Simkot, the district headquarters of Humla, have become a common sight. The children have been carrying heavy loads on a daily basis in order to manage money to pay their school expenses. It is not their will, but compulsion.
Third grader Man Bahadur Shahi, who is studying at Kailash High School (HS) of Simkot Rural Municipality-7, said weak financial status of his family forced him to look for ways to pay for his own education. “Carrying timber and selling it in the market has enabled me to study. I have no other alternative,” he said.
While on other days, they carry lighter loads and make lesser sales, the story is different on Saturdays. Every weekend, they wake up at 5 in the morning and leave the village to enter the forest to collect timber. The timbers are then taken to Simkot.
Through the sale of timbers, the young children are able to manage expenses to purchase stationery items and pay school fees. Although the government provides them textbooks free of cost, they still need to purchase notebooks, pencils, sharpeners and other stationery items, the children said.
“Timbers collected from the forests are also our means of livelihood. Our parents also use the money to purchase basic necessities such a salt and oil,” said Deep Shahi, a fourth grader at Kailash HS.
The children undertake three-hour long road to Simkot from their village. “We fetch Rs 500 per load. We use the money to meet the daily expenses of food and education,” said Devendra Sunar, another student of the school studying in grade four. “The distance between our village and Simkot is very long. During our trip, we always get anxious when we reach the district headquarters and when we return home for dinner,” he added.
All the children said carrying heavy burden in their backs is not their interest, but a compulsion. Most of the children are from Dalit and backward communities.
According to human rights activist Nanda Singh, most of the students make livelihood by selling timbers. “Though there are many agencies distributing education materials, they are focused on more accessible areas and have not reached such remote places where many children are in need,” he added.