Millions of children are not going to school in Nepal because the country isn’t working hard enough to keep them in education, warn aid workers.
The south Asian country has a huge gap in education standards between rich and poor and countryside and urban areas. In better off parts of the country 72 per cent of people can read and write, according to United Nations figures, while only 23 per cent of people in poorer cut –off communities are literate. In some of the most disadvantaged communities literacy rates are as low as four to 10 per cent.
But more can be done to help children from the very poorest, ethnic minority community’s stay in school, say aid workers.
Across Nepal, children from ethnic minorities miss out on free education because of social prejudice or because there are no schools within travelling distance. Many simply can’t afford to keep their children in school and most children from disadvantaged backgrounds usually drop out of education early on.
Nepal is home to more than 100 ethnic groups, and half of them live on the edges of society, and 22 are classed as “extremely disadvantaged”. They make up about 40 per cent of the country’s population.
“These groups also have the lowest number of children in schools,” said education specialist Helen Sherpa from World Education, which works with disadvantaged children.
“They all come from the most exploited communities who are impoverished, suffer from social inequalities and most children have dropped out of school to work in risky situations,” she told United Nations news service, IRIN.
In a bid to fix the problem, the government has brought in projects where local people manage schools which are 60 per cent government funded and 40 per cent paid for by the community.
“This is a good idea, but it does not solve the problem of equality issues in diverse communities in Nepal, as not all communities are capable of managing schools, especially in low-literacy areas," said education specialist Sumon Tuladhar from the UN Children’s Agency, UNICEF.
The government has also introduced a scholarship scheme, but at $5 per child every year it is nowhere near enough to make a difference, say aid workers.
More than one million children in Nepal work as servants, porters, carpet weavers, bricklayers and miners, according to the International Labour Organization, which estimates more than 16,000 children work in adult businesses, such as massage parlours. Research shows that girls who are educated are better protected from exploitation and Aids, less likely to die during childbirth and more likely to raise a healthy baby.