Musahar children in Saptari village are still deprived of educationLack of government identity cards and deprivation are forcing Musahar parents to keep their children away from schools.
Girija Sada Musahar of Maniyar Parsahi settlement, Mahadeva Rural Municipality-4, has a seven-year-old son who has never been to school. The seven-year-old said that he does not go to school because his parents do not send him there.
Pawan Sada of the same settlement also has two daughters, one eight years old and the other 10; they also never go to school.
Sampait Sada’s son, who is in grade two, also doesn’t go to school. His son said that he doesn’t have the uniform and other materials he needs at school.
Even though the local government claims 100 percent enrollment of school-age children in the Mahadeva Rural Municipality, around 200 aged 5 to 10 years in the Maniyar Parsahi Musahar settlement are deprived of education. Some have not been enrolled at school, and even those enrolled do not go to school regularly. Like any other Musahar community, people in this settlement survive by doing menial labour, farm work, and fishing in rivers and ponds.
Most of the children of this settlement have not been enrolled in school due to the absence of birth certificates and because their parents don’t have citizenship certificates in the first place. Some don’t go to school because of poverty.
“We even struggle to put food on our plates. In such conditions, how can we provide materials necessary for their education?” said Brihaspati Sada of Maniyar Parsahi. There are around 250 children in the settlement. Most of them can’t even afford government-run schools that only collect nominal charges from students.
“The school, the local government, and the parents are all to blame for the Musahar children not attending school,” he added.
“My son also stopped going to the school after he was kicked out for not attending his exam. They say he can only go to school in the new academic session,” said another local, Lalo Devi Sada. Children in this settlement cannot even spell or write their own names or the names of their schools. “We don’t know if this is a weakness of our children or the school’s,” she added.
“We stopped sending my seventh-grade son to school because he couldn’t write anyone’s name. We thought we were wasting our resources by sending him to school,” said Ashok Sada, a local.
“Children of this settlement are mostly found playing cards, playing marvels, and fishing, among other things, during the day. All the parents in the settlement leave for work at 7 in the morning and only return home at 9 pm every day. With such a busy schedule and little money, how can we manage to send our children to school? There is no progress between the children who go to school and those who don’t. They haven’t learned anything,” he added.
The nearest school is Dwarika, Shreelal, Satandevi Secondary School in Bathnath, which is 1.5 km away from the settlement, and some of the children of this settlement go to this school.
“Our children face hardships even after being admitted to school,” said Raijani Devi Sada. “After two or four days at school, they don’t want to go because the students and teachers treat them unfairly for being Dalits,” she added.
According to Yuddha Narayan Yadav, principal of Dwarika, Shreelal, Satandevi Secondary School, the children from Maniyar Parsahi are not regular at school.
“The parents in this settlement do not pay attention to their children’s education. Sometimes the teachers also scare the children saying that they will be kicked out of school if they are not regular. So the students stop coming to school,” said Yadav.
“Not only the children of this Musahar community but other children too don’t come to school regularly. About 40 percent of them do not come to school regularly,” he added. There are nearly 900 students at the school, 150 of them from various Musahar settlements.
Despite the absentees, the municipality still claims 100 percent enrolment.
According to Dev Kumar Yadav, head of the education unit of the Mahadeva Rural Municipality, all the children of the school age are enrolled. The federal government allocated Rs65 million under the conditional grant, and the municipality allocated Rs6.9 million to education.
“We have been offering scholarships and mid-day meals to bring dalit students to school,” he said.