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'Orphanages' in Kathmandu


'Orphanages' in Kathmandu


Claire V Goodwin

As a volunteer working in one of the hundreds of orphanages in Kathmandu, I have noticed a startling common phenomenon. Several months ago I was working in a children's home just outside Kathmandu that claimed to be caring for forty orphans, but in fact, the majority of the children had parents. Even more startling was the fact that the children were relatives of the people running the "orphanage."  It was certainly less of an orphanage and more of a boarding home for rural children.

According to an article published by the International Council for Friends of Nepal, over 50% of children living in orphanages in Nepal have both parents alive. One of the main causes of this high percentage, excluding the fact that some parents are too poor to feed their children, is the lack of quality education in the countryside. It is almost guaranteed that if a child is placed in one of the orphanages within the Kathmandu Valley, they will receive a free, quality education.

Parents bring their children to Kathmandu from the countryside and hand them over to these orphanages, perhaps pretending to be the child's aunt or cousin, and claiming that they are too poor to raise that child.  This is a serious issue that seems to get little or no attention. These children are being separated from their families and their community for the sake of being educated.

This is no way for a child to be raised.  Education is important, but so is having the love of a parent and knowing the history of your family and culture. Families should not have to choose between handing their children over to strangers for the sake of formal education, and keeping them at home with little opportunity of a brighter future.

It would be to the advantage of Nepali society if the new Maoist government implemented a rural outreach program that would place teachers in these far flung villages. Given the high unemployment rate in the country, the government should encourage students to go to such schools to become educators. Incentives would be put in place to encourage new teachers to work beyond the Kathmandu Valley.  The easiest and most effective incentive is financial.  In exchange for the undesirable placement, these teachers would earn a higher salary than their peers working in Kathmandu; the difference paid for by the government.

An alternative option would be to pay the tuition costs of the future teacher. In exchange, the teacher would serve two years in the countryside and earn a rural salary.  By lifting the burden of raising children who have parents and by easing the financial toll it takes on society, the government would be able to afford such an outreach program.

The issue of breaking families apart due to a lack of rural education needs to be addressed.  With access to quality education in the rural areas, the orphanage homes in Kathmandu would be better able to care for the children who really need to be there.  Nepali people have chosen this new government with the hope of positive change.  For the sake of our children, isn't it about time?

Posted on: 2009-01-04 19:06:49 (Server Time)

2009 Jan 4