When I started school, my parents earned less than $1 a day. It was hard for them to send their four children, including me, to school. Still, we all went. I’m now 23 and in my last year of a bachelor of science at the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Sciences in Chitwan District in Nepal.
Many parents in my old neighborhood forced their children to leave school. Today, some of my friends have low-paying jobs as conductors or waiters. Others have been involved in illegal activity, and gone to jail.
I’m grateful to my parents for sending me school in spite of their problems. Recently, I’ve tried to find out why so many kids drop out of school in Nepal, and what can be done about it.
I contacted Rampur School near my university and learned their average dropout rate in the last 10 years was 8.7%. I decided to go door to door to gain fresh reasons from parents and students for their decision to leave school.
I went to more than 30 houses. Most parents were squatters with small homes. We talked about the size of their families—most had more than six children—their source of income, and the reasons their kids dropped out.
The majority said sending their children to school resulted in extra cost and extra problems. Most agreed it was better for the whole family if children worked rather than attended school. Some said the school curriculum was weak on practical skills, and that education does not guarantee employment in Nepal.
A few parents admitted their children had been involved in robbery and risky behaviors since leaving school. One child was forced into prostitution after being sent to work in another home.
A parent told me: “Sir, you are wealthy, your parents were wealthy, and so you went to school. We have a problem just sustaining life each day, how can we send our children to school?"
I also talked to some kids. They mainly said pressure from their family caused them to drop out. Some left school because they understood the economic problems of their parents.
According to available data from the school, no kids returned after dropping out.
So what to do? I have joined the presidency of my school to help raise awareness of this issue, which I hope can be resolved one day. I think the government should do more to encourage children from struggling families to stay in school, and create more employment opportunities for educated young people. The school curriculum also needs to be more practical. If these changes were in place, families from low socioeconomic backgrounds would see more immediate benefits of education. I am a true believer that education is the cure for poverty.