I am attaching a recent photo taken at the community school in Mankhu. I admit, it's not the greatest of photographs ever taken. I'd like to invite you nonetheless to take a long hard look at it. Some of the children have no uniforms at all. Some have half a uniform, just the shirt perhaps. One small boy in the front has a blue shirt but seems to have no buttons, or only the top two or three buttons. His shirt is bery dirty as well, yet he stands there looking almost proud of his barely-there blue shirt. If you look hard you'll see two of the girls are missing some buttons, have ragged sleeves or just part of a sleeve. From the degree to which one has her sleeves rolled up, I'd guess it's a hand-me-down shirt.
These children are from poor, farming families and can't afford a school uniform. You may be thinking, ok, not a big deal that don't have a uniform, if they have food and school, that's not too bad. In Nepal, the culture is such that kids without uniforms can be dismiseed from school entirely. Furthermore, it's an embarrassment to dress in such ragged clothes or to be missing half a uniform. As the children get older they will refuse to attend school rather than be seen without a proper uniform. It stigmatizes them as coming from poor families. Other children will taunt and tease them, the principal or teachers may send them home and admonish them not to return without buttons on their shirts or a clean uniform. The drop-out rate past grade 5 rises as the children become aware of the poverty they live with.
Take a look, a good long look. Put this in a cultural context. We're going to lose some of these children. If we lose the girls at a young age, they will marry young (and uneducated) and the cycle never stops.
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