KATHMANDU, July 25: Sabita Rai, a third-grader at Adarsha Secondary School, Nagbahal in Patan could not go to school on Tuesday as her uniform was drenched by the overnight downpour.
The seven-year-old had not gone to school on Monday either as all of her textbooks and exercise copies were soaked in the rain -- the homework she had finished the previous evening ruined by rain water as the floor of her makeshift home in the demolished squatter settlement by the Bagmati at Thapathali turns into a puddle.
Aakriti Gautam, a seventh-grader, was found doing her homework in a narrow makeshift hut Tuesday afternoon. “Rain drops ruined the homework I had done yesterday. So, I am doing it again now,” she said. Her thick books are rapidly losing their pages after regularly getting drenched in rain. She used to secure third place in her class before the government bulldozed her family hut but she could not even pass in all the subjects after resuming classes following a long gap. “I cannot concentrate on my studies due to the stress,” she added.
The makeshift abode is so small and congested that the five members of her family have to pass the night sitting up for lack of space to sleep. Her parents have to keep going out to drain the water from the makeshift roof of plastic sheet when it rains.
Sagun Shrestha, 16, a ninth-grader at Bal Sikshya Secondary School, Guheshwori finally gave up his studies due to hardship following the demolition. “He had done well in the district-level examinations for eighth grade and wished to continue with his studies. But he changed his mind and quit school after seeing the troubles of the family following the demolition of the settlement,” Shrestha´s mother Tara, 32, said adding, “When we asked him to continue his studies he said he will now earn money instead to support his two siblings in their schooling.”
Most of the small kids in the settlement, who used to study at Mechi Mahakali School located within the settlement, have not been able to continue their studies as the primary school was also destroyed during the demolition spree.
A nongovernmental organization got them admitted at Adarsha Secondary School at Nagbahal, which is over an hour´s walk away. “My 11-year-old son gets totally exhausted walking to and back from the school,” Kamala Lama said. Those who are big enough go to school, but the smaller children pass the time playing on the river bank. “Lots of students have given up their studies after the government demolished our shelters,” said Bhima Sibakoti, another squatter.
The squatters have been living in misery after the government demolished their homes on May 9. The government had first promised to resettle them at Chobhar, and then at Sundarighat, but the locals at those places have resisted the resettlement.