by Madhav Aryal
PALPA, Nepal (The Kathmandu Post/ANN)- Though various government and non-government organisations have been raising awareness against child marriage in the Nepali district of Palpa, many teenagers in Mehaldhap are still falling into the trap of early marriage.
Early marriage has caused the school dropout rate to increase in Mehaldhap, a village 40km away from Palpa’s district headquarters of Tansen.
Four boys and five girls between the ages 15 and 16 at Mahakali Secondary School have discontinued their studies after getting married in the running academic year alone. Ram Bahadur Somare, the school headmaster, said the dropout rate was high among ninth and tenth graders.
“Every year we have at least seven students who get married and discontinue their studies. It’s a worrying trend that the school alone cannot stop,” said Somare.
Though various government and non-government organisations have been raising awareness against child marriage in Palpa, many teenagers in Mehaldhap are still falling into the trap of early marriage.
Mahendra Subedi, section officer of the District Education Office, blamed local practice and tradition.
“It is a convention in some parts of the district, where children are married when they are just in grade eight or ten. Usually, it is teenage girls who get married early,” he said.
According to the 2011 census, 51 per cent of teens (between ages 15 and 19) got married in Palpa; 61.10 per cent of them were girls. The marriage rate among children under 14 years of age stood at 10.73 per cent.
Rumkala Raskoti was a tenth grader at Mahakali Secondary School when she decided to marry. She stopped attending school after she began living with her husband and his family.
She did not wish to continue her education because her other married friends had done the same.
“All my married friends are busy taking care of their families now. I am also following their footsteps. I cannot tell them to go to school,” said Raskoti.
Jhabikala Gharti Magar said she cannot imagine going back to school as a married girl. She is worried that her classmates and teachers might tease her if she goes back to school.
“I do not regret marrying early at all, but I might regret going back to school now,” she said.
There are over 150 ninth and tenth graders at Maha-kali Secondary School. Come next academic year, several of them are likely to get married and quit their studies.
“The situation is beyond us. We try to our students and their parents about the disadvantages of early marriage, but our counsel is hardly heeded. There is a need for a greater level of intervention and awareness if to stop children from marrying early and ruining their lives,” said Somare.