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Taking the Dropout Problem Seriously in Rural Nepal

Last December, I wanted to find out why so many children near my university in rural Nepal dropped out of school . I went to more than 30 homes. Parents gave several reasons, but the main one was that they believed work was more beneficial than education. You can read some of their comments in my blog post.

I know from my own experience that education is life-changing. I’m from a poor neighborhood. Many of my friends who dropped out ended up with low-paying jobs. Others have gone to jail. I found that the only way to improve the dropout situation at a facility like Rampur School in Chitwan, or any similar community, is to bring everyone together in one room, and have an open conversation about the issues.

In collaboration with Rampur school, a TEDx event was organized to stimulate dialogue on education. It was the first such event in the community.  Around 44 people attended, including community leaders, teachers, parents, and students.

Most parents didn’t know what dropout meant, and what they could do to help. They asked many questions. Most said they were actually eager to send their children to school, but they wanted their children to gain practical skills that could be applied in daily life, and not simply memorize words from books.

Parents also wanted to see food programs in school. They thought that if the school offered food at least once a day, it would not only attract their children to school, but also ease the pressure on parents to feed their children at home.

One of the students, a girl, 13, described the challenges of girls attending school in rural areas. She said early marriage and biological changes at puberty were the two main reasons girls dropped out of school. In rural communities like Rampur, there is the belief that girls can’t be touched by anybody when they have their period. They are perceived as dirty. If schools don’t properly address this situation, then girls are compelled to leave school.

The event was eye-opening, and had a tangible result. As a first step in solving some of the problems, teachers agreed to create a monitoring system to track the dropout rate in Rampur, and find ways to prevent it.

For me, the meeting was a milestone in my own education. I will never forget the challenges I faced when I first went door-to-door asking questions. The indigenous community in Chitwan thought I wanted money. In the beginning, it was very hard to make them understand what I was trying to do with this event.

I drew on the lessons I gained from a 2010 EVOKE workshop—an online game and course to help young people come up with creative solutions to solve social problems. The course helped me discover ways to improve not only myself, but also my community.

Young people should be involved in all efforts taken to raise awareness about the drop-out rate issue. This is not only an example for the Rampur community, but also for the world. Awareness raising programs must continue. This will help children get an education, and a better future.

And finally, the government, as the main authority, also needs to play a key part in this debate.

Comments

Submitted by Rafael on
Eight years ago I began homeschooling my sedelt child and she has only entered the school system part way through this year. I chose to homeschool for academic reasons, believing that I could give them a better grounding than the schools were currently providing. Part of my reason for allowing her to attend school this year was because it had become such a struggle homeschooling her brother, who was only diagnosed with Asperger's last year. I never knew why he was difficult, just that he was different and the regular disciplines didn't work with him.Being two years older I expected them both to be working at different levels but as the years passed Ryan achieved the same levels or higher than his older sister. Academically they were both achieving but I felt it was unfair on Rachel, that she needed competition of her own age. Her homeschooling background has helped her achieve the highest levels at school and she has been chosen for an academically advanced class next year. She is happy knowing that she fits in well with her own age group.I think that the years of homeschooling Ryan has helped build his confidence and given him the security that he needs. As long as he is in his own environment he is fairly happy but taken out of that secure place his anxiety levels build and he finds it difficult to focus. I have to say that socially he does very well, making friends easily with all age groups. He is part of a major choir which he absolutely loves, has piano lessons and has happily taken part in concerts, attends church and plays with anyone and is now a Leading Cadet with the Australian Air League so he has fairly good social exposure.The major difficulty lies in being away from home for any extended period of time. To become a Leading Cadet he has had to go away to camps, albeit with a parent attending. It has been horrific for him and for staff trying to cope with tears and illness. The same thing happens going away with the choir, even though a parent attends. He has achieved while being away but watching the struggle is just dreadful. Because of his abilities (and to help him through it) he is usually put in charge of a group and he works through his tears.Next year he wants to begin high school a year early and I'm currently working through some exams with him to see if he would cope with the workload. I am concerned that he will come up against conflict. In the past his meltdowns have only affected him he doesn't lash out at anyone else. The Principal of the school allows Aspergers children to use his office as a safe place, so I know the school is aware of the condition.I would be happy to continue homeschooling, but think the lack of competition since his sister went to school has taken away his incentive to do well. He really wants to attend high school next year but this will depend on results and counselling at the school. Whether he attends next year or the year after, if he is not happy there he can always return to homeschooling. Without that background I don't think he would cope as well in society as he does today.

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