KATHMANDU, Sept 16: The trend of sending small children to hostels in order to improve their education and behavior is increasing. Some guardians do it so that they can focus on work. However, does sending children away to hostels really improve everything?
Manju Neupane, a resident of Sundhara, Kathmandu, has two sons who have been living in a hostel since they were young. She says that she had to send her children to a hostel because she had to devote more time to them than to her business. Her sons wished they were at home. “They say they don’t want to go back to hostel,” says Manju, “I send them because I have no choice.”
Balaju’s Dhan Bahadur Ghale has placed his 11-year-old son Rahul in his school’s hostel. The hostel is 15 minutes away from their house. With his wife abroad, Dhan Bahadur found a hostel an easy solution to care for his son. However, problems have cropped up in Rahul’s health and studies. Ghale says, “He has been suffering from rashes all over his body.” He, then, brought his son home for a few days.
Rahul slowly started getting used to living in the hostel. He made friends and even liked living there. The problem now is that he has stopped paying attention to his family. “His studies aren’t that good and he doesn’t want to stay home,” complains Ghale.
Educationists advise that it’s better not to send children to hostels to improve their studies and behaviors. Educationist Man Prasad Wagle says that keeping children away from family increases chances of their being unsafe, negative changes in their behaviors, problems in their health and, in some situations, they might even have to suffer from some bigger problems. With the intention of having more free time, many guardians in cities place their children under a hostel’s responsibility. Such a trend has increased, he says. “Because of this tendency, it’s not possible to develop societal and familial responsibility in a child,” says Wagle.
The increase in private schools in Nepal along with the popularity of hostels has taken away the rights of children opines Wagle. He states, “And to keep your child in a hostel even though the school is near is a serious crime towards the child.”
If the school is far and you have no choice other than placing your child in a hostel, you need to make sure that the hostel has a homely environment is his advice. “There are hardly any hostels with a homely environment in Nepal,” he says. Since Nepal’s constitution states that anyone under 18 is a child, looking at it from the point of view of children’s right shows that we should not send our children to hostels, puts Wagle.
According to him, many hostels in Nepal’s private schools do not provide a homely atmosphere. It is seen that these hostels are mainly operated for business purposes.
Children, who live in hostels, undergo health problems due to ineffective clean surroundings and lack of healthy and balanced diet. They also feel pressurized when they have to move away from home due to their studies, and they might feel unsafe too. “In such a situation children cannot improve their studies,” he says.
They might also feel that their parents don’t love them and hence they are keeping them away from home. It can lead to an emotional distance between the child and his parents.
Wagle says that some hostels could spoil a child. Students living in popular and expensive private schools’ hostels have been involved in drug abuse and kidnappings, he states.
Wagle opines that the trend of hostels in Nepal was brought in from neighboring countries, India and Pakistan. He has heard many children not showing closeness with their family after coming back from hostels.
Unless the government effectively monitors the private schools, this negative trend will continue, says Wagle. “Because the government officials are trapped in the greed of private schools, monitoring has not been successful,” he says.
Sending a child away from parents or keeping them in a hostel has more negative consequences than positive ones for the child says Saroj Prasad Ojha, Psychiatrist at the Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj. According to him, living in hostels can be an obstacle to a child’s personal development. “It’s not right to neglect your responsibility as parents and send your child to a hostel,” he says.
“Smoking, using drugs, using the internet for various negative things are some of the bad habits one sees in a child living in hostels,” he further states.
However, sending your child to a hostel doesn’t guarantee negative things, says child litterateur, Binay Kasaju. “It’s important to understand how the hostel is,” opines Kasaju, adding, “If the hostel places more importance on money than on a student’s future and the environment of the place, then the hostel is not suitable.” The guardians need to be clear about why they are keeping their child in a hostel.
A child can easily be frightened if suddenly placed in an unfamiliar atmosphere of a hostel. They need to understand the reason why they are being sent away from home.
“A hostel’s environment can turn a quiet child into a talkative one, make a finicky child eat anything and also instill habits like doing their homework and studies on time,” says Kasaju. Children will learn how to speak and live in discipline. But these things depend on the hostel and the teachers there, he says.