Nepal: Beauty and the Beast (2)

The Long March

Another barrier to development in Nepal is language but then that is true the world over. If we cannot converse we find it difficult to reach common ground, there can be no compromise. We isolate ourselves, and in that isolation entrenchment festers and hostility develops without the need of rationale. All these factors can culminate in the sheer backwardness of nationalism and down that road, irrational violence.

Children of the mountain regionThere is only one route out of this dead end and that is education. Of the several languages and local dialects spoken, Nepalese and English predominate. Should the government make one of these or both mandatory?  

Establishing schools is but a step in the right direction. The schools need to be properly staffed and equipment has to be readily available. Of prime importance is getting the kids to come to school and to stay in the system.

  • 50% don’t complete primary education.
  • 34% can’t read or write in the poor areas.
  • 20% ONLY of Dalit children attend school. (resolveinternational.org)

Many kids don’t go to school because they can’t afford the uniform or the equipment necessary for class work e.g. books or pencils etc: (Rural Education Development Centre). Do I see a charity stepping in here to lend a hand?

Perhaps the Maoist government need to take a leaf from their old Chairman’s, Little Red Book and send students into the countryside. They could pay the students university fees, plus accommodation etc: for a two year hard slog in the rural areas. Voluntary Services Overseas might lend a hand. A band of charities could pool their cash and personnel and fund a school (s) in the remote parts. But, but, but we don’t need no indoctrination – we don’t need mind control; charities leave those kids alone! However, being able to read and write could transform the lives of everyone in Nepal. Literacy is a gift to a better life.

women at work

A daily task

Education is the key but first you must unlock the potential of the female in Nepalese society. A staggering 34% of marriages are of girls under 15 years old; the law stipulates 18! Is anybody doing something about that? Adult literacy for women stands at 44.5%, while 67% of illiterates in Nepal are female (soschildrensvillages.ca/). As it is mainly the women who nurture and raise the children it is imperative that the figures highlighted are dramatically changed. No flower blossoms without a good root.

If we are serious about helping the children of Nepal then we must have a two pronged attack on the problem. The schools must be built and staffed but there must be a blitz on adult education. Without the latter there is little prospect for the former. Illiteracy is a coffin for the mind!

Before any one attacks me for letting the males off the hook, I am not; I have made two assumptions:

1)      They are too busy trying to eke out a living.

2)      They don’t think about it or think much about it.

As 75% of the population depend on agriculture (CIA) and remote areas are less productive, we can assume that time spent on farming is far greater.

forced labour

The neverending story

While a focus on education would be a positive step we must also ensure that the children are psychologically in the right frame of mind to enjoy and absorb the essentials of this life chance. Too many kids are being abused. Child labour is widespread with 25% of girls and 17% of boys at work everyday. Child trafficking is a blight on the country (childrensrightsportal.org/Nepal). The Sindhupalchok district has the reputation for child abuse and trafficking. (docfnepal.org) Many young girls end up in the brothels of India.

According to restlessbeings.org some 5-7 thousand girls are trafficked each year. That paedophiles have opened shelters and orphanages as a front to hide their abhorrent activities. That during a 6 year period only 8 paedophiles were arrested and sentenced. This would suggest that someone is doing a Nelson e.g. turning a blind eye to the situation.

These kids are prey for a predatory animal. Paedophiles in the guise of tourists add mockery to the utter shame in which these children live. Such ‘tourists’ are there to delve into the squalid aspects of life in Nepal. Their innate selfishness has no boundaries; they are atavistic in nature.

slums of the capital

Poor Kathmandu

The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that most of the street kids come from poor families, were they lived in ‘dire’ poverty. Or they ran from domestic violence or from poorly run orphanages. There may be as many as 30,000+ street kids and over 10% are homeless. (cfsc.trunky.net). The story gets worse, aglobalvillage.org state that 95% of the 1,200 street kids in Kathmandu sniff glue, a carpet glue called Dendrite. The horror has been witnessed first hand by (handsinnepalahome.blogspot.co.uk). She was so appalled that she wants to start a food kitchen for the street kids and is looking for help.

I grant that there are a myriad of problems that beset Nepal and none are easily solved. I respect that a number of organisations are ‘doing their bit’ but it is simply not enough. We need a change of mind set by the aid donors and the charities. A serious plan for reconstruction, properly co-ordinated and, having first identified the root causes of the problem, engage a ruthless determination to redress them.

How many students in their ‘gap’ year could be encouraged to volunteer? How many businesses could lend their name to a project? How many large retailers with branches all over the country could sponsor a project and have collection cans in all their outlets? Tell the story; build a relationship between their customers and the project in Nepal. Am I alone in thinking that nothing is insurmountable? Illiteracy is a crime against humanity! Start rocking – the rest will roll!

Child Poverty 3

The ReaperWhen most people think of child poverty they immediately think of Africa, India, places like that. Famine comes to mind, as does drought and disease and bringing up the rear, death, death and death. We often hear of harrowing stories and see pictures of children close to death from malnutrition, diarrhoea brought on by polluted water. Such is hell, who needs the devil!              There are so many cases that can be cited, we’ll settle for two:

Nepal: 66% severely deprived 40% in absolute poverty, malnutrition a major problem. (unicefglobalstudy.blogspot.co.uk)

Haiti: 54% live in abject poverty, 40% depend on subsistence farming to survive. (upoak.com)

Contrast those figures with those of JRF that 3% of children in the UK suffer from ‘chronic’ poverty. This is not to suggest that being poor in the developed nations is easy. However, it should not involve a shortage of: food, shelter, clothing or medicine which can be very much a reality in the places mentioned and in various parts of Africa and the sub-continent of India.

….. lives with her disabled husband and one-year-old son in a rented home in Coventry. Despite struggling financially, she questions the current definition of poverty.

“Compared to where I grew up in South Africa, people here are ridiculously wealthy. In Africa if you do not work, you do not eat. It is normal to see children walking to school without shoes on and digging for food in the dustbins.”

“Poverty there is also the fear that you are replaceable if you do not turn up for work. There is no protection.”

“The British government want to change the way poverty is measured, but if you choose to buy alcohol or drugs, you choose to put yourself into poverty.”

“The poverty we live under is mental poverty, not true poverty.”  Case study from BBC June 2012 (bbc.co.uk)

Seen from her two perspectives, is this woman right?

Moreover, a number of academics pour scorn on the West’s notion of poverty:

“Relative poverty rates are not poverty at all; they are measures of inequality…”

Professor of Economics, Miles Corak, (The Globe & Mail, May2012)

“There is no consensus about what constitutes poverty; it is essentially a political issue.”

(A.   Walker, 1990)

“Statistically, relative poverty is a measure of inequality in the bottom half of the income distribution.”

Kristen Niemietz, (A New Understanding of Poverty, 2011) If you like a sound factual approach you’ll like this. (iea.org.uk)

Can we reconcile the diametrically opposite views of poverty? One screams at you from the TV, while the other goes largely unnoticed. When there is a disaster like a famine or earthquake most people put some money in the can. The tragedy is visible, it’s in your face, and adverts milk the emotion of the event to maximize your donation.

Throughout the world poverty stalks the unfortunate like a fiend with no compassion. To help solve the situation we need to think long and hard. The aid donors in particular need to re-think their strategy on how they spend, monitor and evaluate their aid. There is absolutely no value in continuing with the present shambles of throwing money at the problem. For how many years has money been poured in and yet the plight of the people seems no better. Until the donor nations put their money into planning, construction, water supply and irrigation then I don’t think anything will change. It needs a root and branch re-think!

 

Homeless, Homeless

Homeless, Homeless

We should insist that the donors sit around a table and/or join via a conference call and find a strategy that all can work towards. Then they need to empty their bulging pockets onto the table and use the money to systematically improve a given situation. A whole gaggle flying in on separate expense accounts is a mockery of their stated aim and an insult to those in desperate need. How much money is wasted by having the horde of NGO’s charging in, with their know best attitude, doing their little bit, tinkering at the edges, putting a brick where a hundred houses should stand with all the necessary drainage etc:?  

              Cut the waste; don’t build in haste, plan, and plan to build good living space.

 If you missed Child Poverty 1 or 2 please check here:

http://www.upoak.com/2012/12/07/democracy-5/

http://www.upoak.com/2012/12/10/democracy-6/