This winter, when a new school year starts in Nepal, Rukmini Foundation is all set to provide support for poor school girls on the verge of dropping out. The selection committee is already on the process of selecting students from Pharping and surrounding areas for the upcoming school year. The committee has already decided on few school girls. When I was in Pharping for a short visit I decided to meet some of them.
Deepika Shrestha, a cheerful girl in her early teens is in grade 8. She is doing well in her class and is excited about going to high school, dreaming of a beautiful future. No one in her family has gone to high school. She lives with her mother, a brother and a grandfather who has chronic illness. Unfortunate to this already poor family, her dad died a few years ago. Her mother Chandra is the sole breadwinner of this family of four.
In this farming village of Pharping, each family owns some farmland where they work throughout the year and produce enough food to feed themselves. The family without farmland are in misery because the only work they can get is of farm worker which is not a well paying job. With less than $2 a day, an uneducated family without farmland has a tough time feeding themselves. Sending their kids to school is a luxury they cannot afford. The situation is even worse for girls. In this patriarchal society, girls are married off to another family while boys are expected to support their parents in old age, further lowering the priority on girl’s education. Without the proper education, the girls in the family end up following the same ill fate of their parents. This vicious cycle goes on.
Deepika’s mother Chandra does own a small farm land which only provides food for them for few months. She sells vegetables to locals which she buys from the larger suppliers to make for her living. To make enough to feed her family, she also takes some random jobs here and there. Chandra says that life has become very tough after her husband’s death. Among all these woes in the family, Deepika’s education is in stake. There is no way Chandra can pay tuition, buy stationaries and books for her daughter anymore. Chandra thinks that she could use her daughter’s help on running her vegetable stall. Chandra has suggested Deepika to drop out of the school which will save the tuition fee and on top of that Deepika can work and bring in some income for the family.
Deepika, on the other hand, wants to continue her education. She is aware of the opportunities she can get with good education but is saddened by the fact that she has to drop out form the school soon. She says that if she can manage for tuition (which is about $300 per year), she can continue her school during the day and help her mother in the morning and in the evening. She knows that with proper education, she can get better jobs and live her life out of the poverty.
I left Deepika, assuring her that I will find some helping hands for her. She will be able to shape her life with the education she wanted.