This is the story of a girl from Doti District. One day in early 2015 some people came to SOS Children's Village Dhangadhi from a remote village named Doti. They had brought an application along with the necessary documents to admit three children who had lost their parents. The case seemed to be critical. We decided to investigate it, so we went to the village where the children lived.
I realised from the documents and the information provided by the people that the children had lost their parents and were living alone.
The case seemed critical, as the children had already lost their parental care. I immediately called a village committee meeting and presented the case for discussion and a decision. The village committee decided to investigate the case. So I, along with a counsellor, travelled to the village where the children were living the next day.
We felt the need to investigate
After 5 hours’ continuous driving on a hilly road with innumerable bends and one and a half hours’ walking we reached the village. When we reached the house where the children were living, people started gathering round us, looking at us in amazement as we were dressed differently from the villagers. However, we tried to ease the atmosphere and started our job.
While we were inquiring about the children, a girl of about 12 drew our attention, as she seemed to be deeply concerned about our inquiry. Then we asked the crowd who she was and found out that she was the eldest sister of the same three children. After that we turned to the villagers and said, “Why didn't you apply for this girl?” In response, one of the villagers said, “She has already gone through her first menstruation cycle. So she might elope with somebody at any time.” This answer was beyond our imagination.
The risk of early marriage or trafficking
We were worried about the girl because this area is known to be somewhere with early marriage and girl trafficking. So she might be abused and fall victim to traffickers or she might be forced to get married. We decided to explain about the legal provision against child marriage as well as informing them about our SOS Children’s Village Programme policy, which doesn't allow us to separate brothers and sisters. Our explanation about the legal provision and SOS policy surprised the villagers. After a short discussion, they agreed to prepare the documents for admitting her to our SOS Children's Village. Then we turned to the girl and asked her name and she said "My name is Sunidhi1" "Are you ready to go with your brothers?" She immediately replied, "No". Her “no” answer made us more surprised and compelled us to ask a question, so I asked her “why”. According to Sunidhi, living in an SOS Children’s Village meant “reading and writing” which she didn't like. We were puzzled by her remark and asked her, "Who said so?" She pointed to the villagers who had told her this. We then tried to convince her and said, "It depends on your wish to read or not. If you don't want to go to school, we won't force you. But think seriously about how your little brothers will feel without you. You need to take care of your brothers in the SOS Children’s Village, just like here." Hearing this, she thought for a while. Then she smiled and said, "If this is true, I'm ready to go to the SOS village". At last we asked the villagers to prepare the necessary documents for the girl too, so that all four children would be admitted to the village together, and returned to our place.
Accepting her decision
After one week, the children were admitted to SOS Children's Village Dhangadhi. The three children were admitted to the school without Sunidhi. The girl stayed at home. Now it was our duty to motivate her to see the value of education. Sunidhi was told different stories about the role of education in life and the success of educated people and the opportunities they had. This went on for 10 to 15 days and we felt that it was putting a kind of pressure on the girl so we stopped the stories.
About 25 days later, Sunidhi approached us and said, "Baba (Father), I want to go to school". I shared it with my team. On hearing this the team and I were amazed as well as delighted. The following day she was enrolled in the school in grade three, as she didn't even know any alphabet or numbers. She looked happy and was a regular attender at school. We were also happy with her changed behaviour. But it did not take long until she changed her mind. After only a week Sunidhi was unhappy and was not willing to go to school anymore. This really discouraged us and we felt a little bit challenged as well.
So we tried to find out the reason for Sunidhi being unhappy which kept her from going to school. We had discussions with the teachers, students, the SOS mother and Sunidhi. Finally, Sunidhi told us why she was not willing to go to school anymore. According to her, she was the eldest and tallest in her class and teased by her classmates who called her TEACHER.
Understanding the situation helped
We felt relieved after listening to the cause and tried to normalise the situation. We talked to the teachers and the children of grade three. We tried to convince them that only their support would motivate Sunidhi to return to school. We told them that if they did not support her they might feel ashamed one day in the future. We finally succeeded and can say that their support played an important role in the life of Sunidhi.
She continued her education and, after a few months, her grade sheet was in my hand, but was not very encouraging. However, her hard work, help from a home tutor and the support of her teachers and friends brought remarkable changes to her progress from grade four. It was the first time that she received her progress report with some positive remarks from her teachers and with pass marks in all subjects. She has now become able to read books and write anything she likes. She attends school regularly and has promised to get outstanding marks in grade five so as to upgrade to grade seven without attending grade six. Her progress ultimately made us believe that it is possible to motivate children for their better future. But we need to motivate them positively without putting any pressure on them and give them space to make decisions on their own.
1 Original name has been changed to maintain confidentiality
is Project Director at SOS Children’s Village Dhangadhi in Nepal and works for SOS Children's Villages since 1992.
His passion is to work for the betterment of children, who inspire him with their open expression of happiness. He consciously focuses on listening to their stories, as this helps him to identify the immediate needs of the children.
For him family means togetherness and trust. He is grateful to his parents who helped him build a strong foundation for his own life. He is trying to transmit the same family values and culture of helping each other to his daughters. In his leisure time he loves listening to Nepali traditional songs and watching cricket games. Music connects heart to mind and sport entertains him.
Padam was born in Chhadung, Dailekh, Nepal, a remote part of the country. The village was out of reach of basic human requirements. Later, when he moved to the city, he was amazed to see vehicles, roads, electricity for the first time. He still loves his birth place and wants to contribute to the education of the children who live there.