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Young volunteers trying to make difference in lives of Nepali street children


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A group of young students here is trying to make a difference in the lives of the city's street children, mostly abandoned by their families.

Every Tuesday, these students leave their classrooms in private colleges to go to the temple of Ganesh near Kamaladi Ganeshthan where they teach the street children how to read and write.

Some of the young pupils were formerly begging in front of the temple.

It is probably providential that Ganesh, popularly known in this Himalayan nation as god of remover of obstacles,could help remove the obstacles that the children are facing, mainly poverty.

According to Juju Kaji, one of the student teachers, they have been conducting classes for the street children for the last two years.

Juju said that he and the other volunteers pooled their meager resources to spend in going to the temple and even to provide the young pupils with snacks and school supplies.

Nilam Tuladhar, one of the volunteer teachers, said she is happy to be a part of the group. "It gives me a sense of satisfaction, especially when I look at the happy faces of the kids," she said.

Heartbeat, Juju's organization, estimates that there are about 5,000 street children in Nepal and out of this number, 1,500 are in Kathmandu.

Family breakdown, poverty, dislocation because of migration and civil war, child labor and loss of family members are the major reasons why children are forced to live on the streets.

Because of lack of funds, Heartbeat is only able to give informal education to 12 street children at present.

Many street children in Kathmandu and elsewhere in the valley often become drug addicts, inhaling the toxic glue called " dendrite."

The feeling of being unwanted in society is what affects the children most, Juju said.

"I enjoyed what I learned," Asraf Khan, one of the street children, said. Khan said that they are not only being taught how to read and write but they are also given a cup of tea and bread.

Deepak Ale Magar, who at 30 is the oldest in the group of street residents, said that he hoped that he could learn to read and write so that he can get a job.

Magar said that he has been living on the streets for seven years.

Juju said that there is a need for the government to do something about the street children so that they can be lifted from poverty.

Providing them education, Juju said, is the first step to improve the lives of the street children. He said they would welcome financial assistance from the government and other civic groups.

"It's high time that we think of measures that would redound to the betterment of street children. Change is impossible until these street children are accepted as a part of society," he said.

For Juju, getting the street children into formal education is a major obstacle.

"Giving formal education to these kids is a huge challenge since most of the time they tend to be diverted and lose interest over the period of time," Juju said, adding that in Nepal there are no formal institutions that could provide education to street children for a long term.


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