CONSIDERED GROWN UP AS SOON AS CHILDREN CAN WALK
In the 1970s, more than 25% of children died before their fifth birthday and only three out of four school-aged children would go to primary school. Since then, much has been improved for the children in Nepal, yet, there is still lots of work to do. Especially children in Mugu are still born into a very hard life. From very early age they have to work hard to contribute to the survival of the family. The 2008 Nepal Labour Source Survey found that the vast majority of children worked more than 19 hours per week or more. Their daily schedule may include agricultural work, looking after cattle, carrying heavy loads of rocks or wood, fetching water, doing the laundry, and taking care of younger siblings. Many families simply cannot cope without their children’s workforce – let alone being able to purchase school materials, uniforms, and shoes.
Schools in Mugu are usually poorly equipped. The classes are often disrupted due to the harsh climate, absence of teachers, or the severe state of disrepair of the school facilities. Most students leave school after a few years, often without having acquired proper reading and maths skills. Thus, teenagers and young adults rarely have any realistic prospect of qualified work and development.
Hardly allowed to be a child
10-year-old Muga lives with her mother and two older sisters in the small village of Ruwa, which is a one day’s walk from the provincial capital of Gamgadhi. Muga’s father passed away due to tuberculosis some years ago.
The struggle for survival overshadows the family´s everyday life. Muga gets up before dawn. By then her mother and older sisters are already on their way to work. The first chore Muga must do is fetching water from the village fountain. In order to have enough water for the day, she needs to walk back and forth several times. Afterwards she starts cleaning the little hut, collects firewood, prepares a meal for everyone, and washes the dishes. Only if all chores are done before 10AM, she is able to go to school.
‘School is a lot of fun. It’s the only place where I have some time to play and rest before I have to work again. But whenever my mother finds paid work for us, like carrying wood, we can’t go to school for days.’