May 15th, 2007 00:53 EST
Students in Nepal Study with Hungry Stomachs, Hungry Hearts
The only sustenance for a student is 6 kg rice, 500 gm pulses and 600 gm potatoes for the period of 15 days. This is all they get for livelihood. Education is free up to secondary level (grade ten) but there are neither trained nor required number of teachers at schools nor adequate text and exercise books. The schools are thatch roofed with bamboo splits forming walls.
Be it the winter cold or extremely hot summers, the students sit jostling on rags. Football, volleyball, table tennis or any other recreation games are nil. They for life don’t get opportunity for excursion visits; the clustered open bamboo huts hovered by trees form the last resort of their hope to see the world.
My teacher, when I was in school, taught me saying, “Student life is golden life.” I don’t know what he meant by this. And perhaps, the cliché popular in this part of the world made him think so. Unfortunately enough, it looks the meaning pertaining by this statement is a distant dream for the Bhutanese refugee student living in eastern Nepal for the last 17 years after being evicted by the Bhutanese authority as part of its ethnic cleansing policy.
Students rarely complete their day’s classes because most of them suffer from various diseases caused by malnutrition. The WFP supplied food is hardly enough for hand to mouth in morning and evening. It has hampered their education.
Beyond secondary, most of them decide for ‘no education.’ Not by laws but due to political interests and regular protests by the local laborers, the refugees are not allowed to go beyond the camps for earning. Very few who hide their identity to get job also lack savings. The banks refuse to open accounts for them. They say, ‘The refugees are not allowed to work, how can you earn to save?”
As the time lapses with no light at the end of the tunnel to get repatriated to homeland and no hope for higher education, the future of the new generation of these refugees has become more vulnerable. Neither Nepal accepts to resettle them nor does Bhutan assure to get them back.
Few of them manage to continue their university level education in government owned university in Nepal. Subjects of their choice are those that cost minimum. The number of refugee students pursuing their university education in subjects like science, engineering, and medical is handful.
The quality of education in government controlled university in Nepal degrading and their products are getting less priority job markets. This led the refugee youths to remain jobless even though they attain university education.
Scholarship for them is non-existent. Most universities here provide financial support to nationals only.
The population of young people in camps with no future, no jobs and no education is incessantly increasing leading them to join the rebel groups who advocate justice from the Bhutanese regime is possible only through armed rebellion.
Who would be responsible for compelling these young people adopt armed rebellion as the means to seek justice and right to livelihood?