Eighth-grader Inu Gurung of Aanbukhairani Rural Municipality, Tanahun, wakes up early between 4:00 am and 5:00 am and prepares to go to school. She has to start her journey to school at 7:00 am not to miss classes.

This is not only the plight of Inu, many school children in Labdi Village have to walk for hours to reach school every morning for want of a secondary school in the village. Around 20 to 25 students from Labdi walk for at least two hours to reach school at Hilekharka.

Ninth grader Rushila Gurung said she had to take the road that passes through a forest to reach school. She said she walked with fear of wild animals in her mind. Students also have to face the risk of flood and landslides during rainy season.

The children are at high risk of leopard attack in Tanahun. Rushila said students had to walk to their school with the fear of leopard and bear attacks in their mind. The students said they also ran the risk of being robbed and attacked by goons on the way to school.

For girl students, the journey to school is riskier considering the chances of being raped or becoming victim of sexual assault. The students said they were ready to take the risk only because of teachers who encouraged them to study hard and created a children-friendly teaching-learning environment in the school.

Raj Maya Gurung, a guardian, said that for parents also it was very difficult to be assured that their children would be alright considering the various risk factors on the way to school and back. "Unless our children reach home safely, we cannot take a sigh of relief and going through the same tension day in day out is really unbearable.

Lack of mobiles phone have added to our problems," she added.

Poor families cannot leave the village, but some well-off have already migrated to Chitwan, Kathmandu, Nawalparasi and Damauli, among other places. Ward 5 Chairman Devilal Gurung said students were compelled to undertake the risky journey every day due to lack of school nearby. He said that the local school could not operate secondary level classes due to less number of students. He added that students from Labdhi, Tallo Labdhi, and Bhateswora were compelled to go to the school in Hilekharka.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 1, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.