‘Oil for education’ programme turns into a farce!

Baitadi, April 25:

Parents send girls to schools only for the oil they get for enrolling.

Jayanti Mahara, a Grade III student of Shree Kedar Primary School in Gwallek VDC in Baitadi, failed three times in Grade III, but interestingly her mother Ratna is happy about this all because Jayanti gets two litres of edible oil every month under the World Food Organisation until she remains in Grade V or below.

The ‘edible oil for education’ programme implemented by the district education office to lure more girls to primary education has turned into a farce as parents send their kids to schools just for the oil they bring home every month, not for their education. Under the programme, girls from Grade II to V are provided with two litres of oil every month for coming to the school.

With prices skyrocketing and most of the men folk of the VDC away in Nainital, New Delhi and Mumbai of India for livelihood, for the women in Dalit settlements the lure of the oil seems more important than their children’s education.

Jayanti told this daily that she was told to graze cattle on her examination day so that she would miss the exam and declared failed.

Grade V student Tulsi Pant of Rautgada village development committee also was forced by her mother to skip the exam. Tulsi is resigned to toting the same old schoolbooks and be in Grade V again.

Most of the girls have not been able to pass Grade V due to the insistence of their mothers on ensuring the supply of edible oil.

Many mothers admitted to discouraging their daughters from studying further than Grade V.

School headmaster Dambar Singh Pant said, “Many guardians come and ask us to allow their daughters to pass Grade I so that they get into Grade II and obtain the facility of edible oil.”

Teacher Hikmat Chand at the Bartoli-based Nagarjun Lower Secondary School said, “Earlier, most mothers-in-law used to curse their daughters-in-law for not bearing sons. However, after the girls began bringing home edible oil every month, their perception has changed. Now, they want more girl children so that more edible oil is brought home.”

Suna Od of Mela Danda said, “Prices of edible oils are touching the sky. Who wouldn’t be happy to get two litres of edible oil for free every month? However, I feel that the programme should have included girl students of all Grades and not just from Grade II to V.”

A guardian Dharmanand Joshi said, “Most of the men folk are away from homes for livelihood.

In their absence, the women are ruling the roost and those girls who want to study further are helpless in the face of their mothers’ opposition. For the mothers, oil is the top priority.”

District education office chief Mahendra Bahadur Chhetri said, “The program was started to encourage girl students to enrol. However, their guardians have begun exploiting the facility and ruining their daughters’ studies.”

In 240 primary schools, 9,000 girls student have been availing of the oil facility. Accountant at the district administration office Shree Nand Kapadi said that the number of girls enrolling in primary schools has shot up after the programme was launched.