From the Nepali Press
Laxmi Bhandari in Himal Khabarpatrika, 28 February-5 March
When she heard the school bell ring, 11-year-old head of household Manju told her brother and sister: “Go to school now. I will ask around in the village and bring your lunch in the afternoon.”
Though she was hungry, Manju’s 9-year-old sister Samjhana got ready anyway. But her younger brother Arjun, 6, refused to go to school on an empty stomach. After trying to convince him several times, Manju couldn’t help but break down crying.
After their parents abandoned them last September, Manju and her siblings have spent entire days without food on many occasions.
Originally from Birendrnagar – 20 Bangesimali, their father eloped with another woman one and a half years ago, and then last September, their mother ran away with another man, leaving her children to fend for themselves.
“When I came home from school that day she wasn’t here,” says Manju sobbing. “I thought she went to work but she hasn’t come back ever since.”
With the responsibility of looking after her siblings on her shoulders, Manju had no other option but to drop out of school six months ago. She was enrolled in Grade 6 at Tripureshwor Higher Secondary in Dhodekhali at the time.
Now, instead of studying, she spends her time collecting firewood with her neighbours. “I can’t chop the wood myself. If someone gives me cut firewood, I can carry that over to the marketplace and sell it. With that money I buy rice,” Manju shares.
On days she can’t collect firewood, she sells cut grass to buy food with the Rs 50 she makes. Other days, they are left without food unless someone in the village gives them leftovers.
On top of the constant struggle to find food, Manju also has trouble getting stationery for her siblings. Sometimes, they make do with pens left around the school. Manju’s biggest concern at the end of the day is whether to buy food or stationery for her siblings with her hard earned money.
For the three of them, their only hope is their 60-year-old grandmother Jaisari Bik. Sometimes when they get scared during the night they call their grandmother. “I was surviving with great difficulty after separating from my son and daughter in law,” says Jaisari. “Now in my old age, do I look after myself or them?”
Manju says that if somebody is willing to help them out, then she too hopes to return to her studies. “If we had food to eat and enough money to buy stationery, then I too would go to school.”
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