Sindhupalchowk school dropouts persuaded to come back
BHIMTAR (SINDHUPALCHOWK), April 17: Like most of her friends, she dropped out of school last year. A 15-year-old girl belonging to the Danuwar community, one of the marginalized indigenous groups, Sabina spent the whole year fishing in the Indrawati River after dropping out of grade four at Bhimeshwar Secondary School in Bhimtar VDC of Sindhupalchowk district.
After a year out of school, Sabina has been admitted to grade four again. At a function held on Monday -- where Mahashram Sharma, director general of the Department of Education (DoE) welcomed a group of 30 dropouts, mostly from the Danuwar and Majhi communities, back to school -- a cheerful Sabina said, "I will not quit my studies now despite all the hardship I have to face."
As part of the ongoing school enrollment campaign, the DoE has managed to persuade over 100 dropouts from the Danuwar and Majhi communities to resume studies in Bhimtar VDC of Sindhupalchowk this year.
Bhimtar is one of the VDCs with a high rate of school dropouts. In Bhimtar, where there are six schools including Bhimeshwar Secondary School, around 300 students get enrolled in grade one every year. However, only half of them manage to reach grade two. The rest drop out before completing grade one.
According to District Education Officer Gehanath Gautam, 169 students had dropped out of school in the last academic year alone. In a district-wide head-count conducted last month, 320 students were found out of school. Of them, 113 dropouts have been enrolled again. A total of 133 students have enrolled at Bhimeshwar Secondary School this year. Of them, 43 students had dropped out halfway through the session.
Despite bringing back more than 100 dropouts to school, education officials and teachers are skeptical about the students continuing their studies. "It is easy to bring back Danuwar and Majhi students to school," says Krishna Prasad Shrestha, principal of Bhimeshwar Secondary School, adding, "But it is difficult to retain them."
The government has been providing scholarships for students belonging to marginalized communities. However, the government´s program has not attracted the Danuwar and Majhi communities.
"Majhi and Danuwar people are not concerned about their children´s education. They believe that their children can also live like them," says Shrestha. "Most of the Majhi and Danuwar people go fishing in the morning. They do not care what their children eat in the afternoon. Most of the children get hungry and go home in the tiffin hour but do not return. If there is a wedding ceremony in the village, no student turns up in the school."
The government has been conducting the school enrollment campaign for the last nine years to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of increasing Net Enrollment Rate (NER) to 100 per cent by 2015. However, six percent children are still out of school. "Our challenge is to retain students in schools rather than to enroll them," said DG Sharma.