Dalit children drop out of school due to poverty

Published On: February 6, 2020 12:12 PM NPT By: Janak KC

JAJARKOT, Feb 6: Suraj Nepali's dream to sit for the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) is shattered for this year. Next year, he will try his luck once again. It is not because he was not prepared for the papers. A student of Tribhuvan Secondary School of Khalanga, he actually couldn't make it to the 10th grade even after getting through the 9th grade as he could not pay the admission fees of Rs 930 on time. "I did not have that much money in hand so I could not get admitted to the 10th grade, and then I stopped going to the school. Now when others are going to sit for SEE, I am feeling bad," he said. "I will try next year," he added. 

His younger sister Anita also dropped out of school last year. She passed the 5th grade from Narajyoti Primary School and she also needed to pay Rs 930 to get into the next class. This was not paid and she stopped going to school. Instead, she is seen busy grinding stones with her mother near a riverbank. She also goes out to graze cows. 

"I did not have money for the admission fees. Mother could not manage it either, so I stayed at home," she said. "May be next year, it will get a little comfortable, even I am working and earning," she added.           

It is not just Suraj and Anita, their younger sister Gita has been deprived of education too. After failing to pay the admission fees and manage other expenses, Gita also stopped going to school from last year.  "I love to go to school, but I am not going there these days. I go with my mother and work," she said. She was also a 6th grader, studying with her sister. 

The children's father Bir Bahadur Nepali died four years ago in Ramgadh in India in a fire accident. A local of Gangatiya village of Bheri Municipality – 6, he had left for India after settling family in the district headquarters for the children's education. But after his demise, things turned worse for his wife and children. The couple has six children. None of them go to school currently. 

According to Nirmala, the children's mother, the living expense in the headquarters is too high and the family faces the question of survival. In such a situation, educating children is challenging. "It is not just about the admission fees. Uniform, books, stationery and other expenses - I don't have money to afford all that," she said. "I work the whole day and the pay is not enough even to feed my kids properly," she lamented. 

The family has a small cottage to live in, a small plot of land in the backyard and a pair of old cows.  According to Nirmala, her children can go to school only if somebody extends support. 

Vice principal of Tribhuvan Secondary School of Khalanga, Haribahadur Basnet stated that Dalit students could be considered for lesser amount of admission fees. But the family has not notified it to the school, he said. "For the extremely poor, the school can make some considerations. But they have to fill the form accordingly. We have not been formally informed of this," he claimed.     

Meanwhile, Dal Bahadur Gharti, administrative officer at Bheri Municipality, expressed concern over the fee provisions. Schools cannot compel the students to pay fees up to the secondary level, he said. "Moreover, they are Dalits. In case of Dalits, schools should be even more sensitive," he said, adding that the school administrations would be quizzed about it. The constitution guarantees right to education for every child in the country. For Dalit and needy kids, the government is supposed to offer residential facilities for his or her smooth schooling. However, many children in the country hit by extreme poverty continue to drop out before completing their secondary level education.

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