11-17 January 2013 #638

Heavy burden, Naya Patrika

Menukala Rai, 7 January

When schools in Solukhumbu shut down in winter due to the cold, students skip their vacation and earn money as porters. Boys aged 10 to 14, most of whom are from Jubing, form a human ferry and carry loads from their own village to the district headquarters in Salleri.

But it is not an occupation of choice. 14-year-old Jasbir Rai from Jubing says he is compelled to do this if he wants to study. "I will minimise spending and save money so that I can buy copybooks. With the rest, I plan to buy some boots."

It takes them three to four days to make the journey up from Salleri to Jubing. Jasbir says he carries 50 kg at one go and receives Rs 130 for it per day. For these paltry earnings, students studying from grades four to seven ply on trading routes to ease the burden on their families.

Keshab Rai says, "My parents don't have a job, nor do they have any sort of earnings. So it is up to me to make some money for buying essentials." Likewise, his friend and fellow villager Jiwan Khaling Rai says he will buy stationery and clothes with his savings and give his mother the remaining money.

Although they were born into poor families, and suffer as a consequence, they also say they are proud to stand on their feet at such a young age. By cutting costs and sharing resources, they save up to Rs 15,000 after each month-long shift.

For Hira Kaji Rai, it is a different matter. His friends may have been compelled into labour due to economic conditions, but Hira says he is here on his own wishes. "I saw that they earned money when I stayed at home, so I came here. I will buy some copybooks with the money I make."