Checking privileges

- Abijeet Pant

Feb 14, 2018-

The return from the Machhapuchhre village felt like a movie. The weather was horrible, it was raining. Everybody was down with viral fever. And our souls weighed heavy because of all the harsh truth we had soaked in while in the village. We were going to do something about it. Do you know how in one of the movies, youngsters set out on a journey where they learn so much about life and reality from all the suffering they see and they decide that they are going to work towards change? We were determined to work towards that change.

But as soon as the exhaustion wore off, so did our energy to do something against poverty. As the city lights diluted our memories from the journey, our energy fizzled out into the thin air. What remained was only endless status updates and photo uploads on the social media.We stopped checking our privileges.

However, this memory of one little girl found its way into my consciousness. 

I once read, “The story of a poor man’s life is written on his body, with a sharp pen.” This was so true for the people of the Machhapuchhre village. I was there with a few other people, teaching at a local school for a week. It was an eye-opening week where we observed first-hand the lives of underprivileged children.

A shy little girl who wore a cloche hat and a ragged jacket Mausami was the most cheerful student in her class. But what hid behind that smile was a heart-wrenching story that let her easily pass for an ‘ill-fated’ little girl.

Her mother had eloped when she was very young, and her ever-drunk father frequently abused her both emotionally and physically. Barely eleven years old, she had to walk two hours back and forth for school. And before she headed to school, she still had to graze the livestock, wash the clothes, and do the dishes. Once she came back from school, the household chores kept her from doing her homework or revising her course.

Her status then forced me to make a comparison between her and the privileged kids of her age. The privileged kids never really have to worry about waking up at five to make sure that they have a fine balance between household chores and school. The privileged kids do not need to worry about getting through adversities. 

Unlike, many city kids, Mausami cannot afford to go to a ‘top notch’ school, commute in school vehicles, and utilise the time after school to delve in recreation.

Yes, there are schools that offer scholarship to students like Mausami, but how many such students can they afford to enroll every year? How much does power and money come to act in the selection processes?

It breaks my heart to know that Mausami will grow up to be a student so disconnected from rest of the technology-driven, smart generation. Doesn’t matter how much knowledge she accumulates, there will always be a struggle to compete with the generation that learns from the internet.

While students her age in the city are likely to reach various corners of the world through programmes such as jamboree, cultural exchanges, and MUNs, she will still be navigating through the hills and forests of her village, collecting firewood and fodder. 

The future is uncertain for her. She might have to drop out of school as soon as she hits puberty. Or she might go on to get through secondary school, despite all odds, but where will her limiting curriculum take her? 

While students her age will head out to prestigious universities to pursue generous scholarships, Mausami will probably fly to the Gulf for cheap labour jobs.

If we put some thought into it, the question looms large—what kind of a world are we living in? Why are some privileged and others not? What can we do in an effort to help children like Mausami lead a better life?

Pant is an A-levels graduate from Budhanilkantha School

Published: 14-02-2018 08:30

User's Feedback

Click here for your comments

Comment via Facebook

Don't have facebook account? Use this form to comment