Unlike most other kids their age, many children in Sayakhola VDC of remote Mugu district do not go to school: Their daily activities include collecting timber for firewood and fodder for the cattle rather than going to school and attending classes. Majority of school students including children of school-going age in the village are compelled to drop their classes in favour of collecting firewood, which is then carried all the way to the district headquarters Gamgadhi to be sold at a meagre price. Almost all children in the village, which comprises 46 households, choose daily chores over education. “Let alone passing SLC (School Leaving Certificate), even to find a student who has passed the Send-up Test is a rarity,” said Ranga Bahadur Kari, a teacher at the Kalika Higher Secondary School, Hennikad. He added that the children of the village have to sell the firewood for their daily survival. Kalika Higher Secondary School is not even far -- it is located just 15 minutes walk from the village. In addition, the government has introduced a scholarship scheme for Dalit students. However, children are still reluctant to go to school. “Selling firewood, not going to school, sustains our life,” said a child from the village on the condition of anonymity. “We sell firewood for Rs 350 per stack; the money earned ensures the survival of our family. Besides we also do not have money to buy stationeries for the school,” the child further said. Millions of rupees spent by dozens of NGOs and District Education Office (DEO) have failed to bring the children of the village to the classrooms. Not only this, but UNICEF has also been spending a lot of money on enhancing the educational sector in the district. The VDC also spends a good amount of budget on education. Still, the children prefer staying at home and do household chores rather than going to school. This problem faced by Sayakhola VDC is not an isolated one. Parents of many rural VDCs of the district prefer sending their children to collect fodder or timber over the school. Daily chores combined with irresponsible parenting have had such a devastating effect on the education of the children of Rawal Bada village in Fotu VDC- 1, that only two students in the village, which comprises 29 households, have passed the SLC examination. “An age-old mentality that children should do the household chores is mainly to be blamed for the educational backwardness seen in the mainly Dalit community of the village,” said Dhan Bahadur Damai, an elder of Rawalbada village. More than 75% of children in the village are not found in the school classrooms as they have gone to India for employment. “All this has caused the children to pick up bad habits including smoking and drinking addictions from a very early age. There have also been cases where the parents themselves were the reason behind such addiction in children,” said Indra Shahi, a District Child Officer. Saying that the parents are spoiling their children due to lack of awareness and poverty, Shahi informed that more than 95 per cent of the children in Saya Khola VDC including Kotila and Mundu village of Pina VDC are deprived of education. The youth education program has been initiated in these villages to relieve the children from household chores and encourage them to go to school. The program has met with some success, according to the District Child Welfare Committee. According to statistics provided by the committee, there are more than 800 children in the district who are left helpless after losing one or both their parents and are suffering from mild to severe addiction.
According to other statistics given by the Committee, a tradition of marrying children below 12 years is rife in Vimbada village of Karkiwada VDC. Children of the five VDC of the eastern Karan region of the district, which includes Pulun Kimrin, Dolfu, Magrika, are found engaging themselves in production and consumption of local homemade liquor. “Children belonging to Dalit and indigenous communities are more susceptible to alcohol addiction, which in turn makes them lose their interest in studies,” said Gurungsyanggap Lama of Pulu VDC. On contrary to all these, the District Education Officer, Dhan Sudhan Chaulagai informed that the survey of 2010 and national census put the number of students not taking classes regularly at two thousand and two thousand one hundred, respectively.