March 22, 2017 12:00 AM NPT
By: Janak KC
Janak KC/Republica Dalit children crushing stones into aggregates for the construction of Nepal National Secondary School in Bhagwati Aulagurta VDC of Jajarkot district in this recent photo. The children work for two hours in the morning from 7 am to 9 am for Rs 100 per sack of aggregates and attend classes on daytime.
JAJARKOT, March 22: Seven-year-old Laxmi Nepali of Bhagwati Aulagurta VDC of Jajarkot district wakes up early in the morning and rushes toward a nearby school. While most of the children of her age carry books and other educational materials, she is seen holding a sack on one hand and a hammer on the other en route to Nepal National Secondary School.
For the sake of Rs 100, she crushes stones into gravels in front of the school from early morning. Though it is not her wish, she is obliged to do so to sustain her life. She completes crushing a sack full of gravels from 7 am to 9 am in the morning. “I give this money to my parents and they will buy me books and new clothes,” Laxmi said.
Laxmi, who belongs to a destitute family studies in grade two at Dalit Primary School of the same village. After the hectic morning schedule, she again has to walk along a steep hill for about an hour to reach her school. But she is more concerned about crushing gravels rather than her studies.
Eleven-year-old Chandrakala BK and Sunita BK of the same village also share a similar story. After waking up early in the morning they reach to the bank of a river for crushing stones. They spend two hours in the morning helping each other carry cement and crush stones. “Our parents don't have money to buy books and new clothes for the upcoming academic year so we are doing it for ourselves,” said Chandrakala.
Dhanbir Bk's mother eloped with another man after the death of his father, compelling him to crush stones to sustain his livelihood. Dannbir, who also goes to school during daytime, said, “I live with my grandparents and they are too old to work. So, I have been earning for our family.”
There are more than two dozens of Dalit children in the district who have been involved in labor due to poverty. It has been found that many youths and children are actively involved in the construction of the school building in the village. This has also affected their education as they have not been able to attend their classes regularly.
District Education Officer Lalit Bikram Singh said, “It really is heartbreaking to see these children going through so much of trouble at such a tender age.” According to him, 19,000 out of 40,000 students in the district are Dalits. He further informed that 4% of the Dalit children in the district are out of school.