SOLUKHUMBU: The adage, ‘earn while you learn’ may have a different connotation to the rest of the world, but when it comes to this part of Solukhumbu it means just the contrary. Take the case of 13-year-old Labindra Kulung, who comes to Nele bazaar to carry loads of luggage – or whatever his hands fall on – to meet the expenses of his studies.
For Labindra reaching Nele bazaar was not all that easy. He walked two days from Cheskam village, where he is the resident, to reach his ad hoc destination. “Whenever I get time I come to Nele to carry loads of luggage to earn some money,” he said, adding, “I have to do it to manage the expenses of my studies.”
Similarly, 12-year-old Aashandhan Kulung of Bung has also come to Nele as a potter. He says he has been compelled to carry loads of luggage to meet the expenses of his studies. “I buy copies from the money earned by carrying whatever I get”, he said, adding, “But I even manage house hold expenses as oil, salt, soap and others from the same money.” Tales of children carrying loads of luggage is not confined to a village or two. In fact, many children from villages like Bung, Cheskam, Gudel among others are into this line of work as they get Rs 28 for carrying a kilogram of load. Most of them carry loads up to 35 kg in one go.
Even then everyone is not so fortunate to get jobs. There’s a competition in that too. Aashadhan was cheerful when he told THT, “Today I had only 20 kilogram of salt in the load.” He has already bought two pens and some copies out of the money he earned for the new academic session.
Likewise, Ambir Kulung of Cheskam said that he was compelled to carry load when his parents fell ill.
These children, who share similar age group, wish to do some business in future. They do not want to carry others’ load and be branded as potters. Twelve-year-old Pravinkala said,” If luck favours then we can become the owner of the shop some day.”
Even when the government and private organisations have invested huge amount in education sector, the plight of these children has hardly improved. They were compelled to become potters due to poverty.
But the most heartrending aspect has been that most of them were compelled to leave their studies in between while pursuing this part time career.