One 17-year-old surveyed in Banke district had left for Kathmandu in a truck when the lockdown began to find a job to augment her family income. But she fell into drug addiction, and had to be rescued.
“We were monitoring her because she had attended one of our awareness programs against sexual exploitation. Which is why she knew how to save herself when she fell into bad company,” says Ram Pyari of Room To Read.
Another 15-year-old from Kohalpur lost her father just before the lockdown started, increasing the responsibility to take care of her mother and three smaller siblings. She decided to drop out of school to take care of her family.
“We are trying to find a way for her to continue her education, while managing her family’s needs,” explains Rachana Chaudhary of Room To Read in Kohalpur, who has been counseling the girl. “However dire the situation, a girl’s education should not stop.”
The Nepal survey was part of a series conducted by Room to Read among 28,000 school-going girls in India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia andTanzania during pandemic lockdowns. The results were similar to Nepal – 49% of the girls were found to be at risk of not returning to school.
“We were very concerned about the impact on education of girls from low income families, and we need to develop strategies to retain them in school,” says Pushkar Lal Shrestha, Nepal Country Director at Room to Read.
Most of the girls interviewed for the survey were involved in domestic chores and did not have access to remote learning. Figures from another survey by UNICEF in May confirmed some of these finding. It showed that more than half the families reported a loss of jobs or earnings, with one-third facing food shortages.
The UNICEF poll also showed that children in 95% of families had stopped going to school, and 52% were not even studying at home, with only 12% attending classes online or by radio/tv.
Room To Read has been conducting remote learning classes as well as mentoring sessions with girls to keep them safe and motivated. Counselors sent keep in touch with their students through SMS or social media.