JUMLA, May 21: The schools of Patarasi Rural Municipality of Jumla wear a deserted look as students have headed toward highlands for picking yarsagumba, a prized medicinal herb with aphrodisiacal properties.
Absence of students has further delayed their course and. With the onset of yarsa-picking season, students have started accompanying their parents towards the hills. As the children cannot stay at their homes alone, they go along with their parents to help them pick yarsa. Not just the locals, but entrepreneurs and villagers of other districts too have reached Jumla for collecting yarsa.
Basudev Shah, principal of Saraswati Secondary School (SSS), Khaladhik informed that the students of various schools of Patarasi have headed toward the highlands of Dolpa, Jumla and Mugu for picking the precious herb. According to him, this is the reason why students miss their classes almost two months every year.
"It has been a decade since students have been skipping classes to pick the herb. This has not just delayed their course but badly affected their board exams, especially the Secondary Education Examination (SEE)," said Principal Shah.
Students are compelled to do so as they and their families manage their yearly expenses with the money they earn from selling yarsa, which fetches good amount in the international market.
"Mostly, students of primary and secondary schools have moved toward the highlands leaving us jobless," said Shah. There were altogether 17 students in class seven but at present only two of them have been attending their classes. Similarly, there were 20 students in grade eight and 41 students in grade nine. Jaya Singh Karki, a teacher of the SSS, informed that both the classes have been attended by single students at the moment. Furthermore, there is not even a single student in grade 10.
"It becomes really difficult for us to complete the course before the board exams," said Principal Shah.
As picking yarsa is the only income generating activity that most people here do to make a living, the school authority cannot be strict toward students. There are five secondary, 20 lower secondary and six primary schools in Patarasi.
Lachiman Bohara, chairperson of Patarasi Rural Municipality, said that the students' involvement in yarsa collection has been one of the major reasons behind declining educational standard.
“We understand that this has had a negative impact on the education of children. We are making efforts to find an alternative for this from next year," said Bohara.