Recently, I along with three of my friends carried out a project titled, Girl Dropouts in Rural Nepal. The main objective of the project was to find out the reason behind girls dropping out from their school in secondary level. For our project, we selected a rural district, Helambu to conduct our project. We chose this district in order to understand the situation of education in villages near the capital. After the prior researches before we went for our field work, we made a hypothesis that the main reasons behind the girls dropping out would be gender discrimination, early marriage, and lack of educational and transportation facilities . However, unlike what we had heard and seen in other communities of Nepal, the case of Helambu was different. In Helambu the greatest reason behind the dropping out of school was lack of knowledge regarding importance of education among parents.
Hyolmo people give more priority to money than education. The trend of going abroad for manual labor is popular among the youth of Helambu. This may be the reason that we observed less number of youngsters in every village that we visited. Due to the lack of employment in this region, almost one member from each house migrates to the neighboring country, India, for job opportunities. And because of the need for financial security as well as the vogue of going abroad for job opportunities not only male but also female youngsters in Helambu prefer earning to completing their school.
During our visit to Helambu, we found that many students drop out after completing their primary level, i.e., grade four or five. According to school principals that we have interviewed in our field work, dropping out from school has decreased at a greater rate as compared to the last few years. However, among the dropouts today, the rate of girls dropping out is greater than that of boys. Unlike other remote places in Nepal, problems like early marriage, pregnancy, gender discrimination, and girl trafficking are minimal in Helambu. Nevertheless, household chores and weak economic status are seen as the main reasons behind girls dropping out from schools.
There are very few schools in Helambu, and those schools are situated significantly far from one another. There are both government and private schools. As the education system of Nepal is the same in all parts of the country, it is likewise in Helambu too. However, many schools have already shut down because of lack of teachers and administration. And many schools only offer primary education. During our visit from one village to another, every morning and evening we were accompanied by small school children who showed us the path for the other village. These children walk hours and hours to reach their school. When we asked them about their aim, many answered that they want to go abroad and earn money like their parents and siblings.
Among the school dropouts we interview, were girls in their teens. Many of them quitted their education in order to migrate to Arab nations such as Lebanon and Qatar for employment. Our interview with them amazed us. How did they manage to get Visa in that early age when you cannot get citizenship until you are sixteen? Our question remained unanswered. Nevertheless, some of those girls still wish to go back and work in the future. Whereas, others have already managed to keep themselves busy in household chores. Some of them want to continue their education, but failed to do so because of they feel inferior to their classmates who are much younger than them.
As the trend of going abroad was very prevalent in the village, it was really necessary to change the mindset of people in the concept of education. However, it was really difficult to have conversation regarding importance of sending the girls back to school with their parents. Similarly, it was impossible to change something that has been prevailing almost for years and years in our small amount of time. Therefore, as an incentive we visited some schools and organized a small workshop regarding the importance of education. In the workshop we used cartoon poster in order to explain the life of educated and uneducated girls. It was really sad that those children have not ever seen cartoon in their life. They were really excited to give their response regarding this issue. However, it is not sure how secure is their childhood. It is necessary to bring change for the betterment of the village and the children. And the change is education. If only the knowledge regarding the importance of education is reached in the village, the childhood of these girls would have spent on learning, but not working.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.