Education: Mendrelgang Central School (MCS) did not take in pre primary children to stay in the hostel this year. That is because of abscence of a full time caretaker. But there are a few exceptions, especially on humanitarian grounds.

Poonam Devi is a beneficiary of that exception and the generous consideration could change the life of the six-year old girl. Abandoned by her mother and living with an alcoholic father, Poonam Devi’s childhood is getting wasted often at risk of getting abused. The school took her in as the newest member of the central school.

The school’s  Geography teacher, Mani Raj Thapa heard the story of the girl when he visited his wife, Sakuntala Lepcha in Patalay last year.  Mani Raj’s wife who was a nurse at Patalay Basic Health Unit noticed Poonam loitering around a construction area where her father worked as a labourer.

At five-years, most of the time she was found fetching water or doing dishes all by herself. Her father who was under the influence of alcohol throughout the day paid no attention to his daughter. Her father’s colleagues told the couple that Poonam’s mother had abandoned her when she was six-months-old.

Mani Raj told Kuensel that she was left unattended around the labour camp, surrounded by all male workers. “That caused serious threat on a girl child from abuse and violence,” he said. “Her age is right for school, but her father was not at all concerned.”

The couple decided to enroll her at Mendrelgang Central School. “We wanted to see her go to school and save her from being abused,” Mani Raj said. “Here she will study until class X without worrying about expenses.” Without MCS principal’s support it would have been difficult to enroll her.

Until the school receives its new set of uniform, the couple bought new set of clothes and other necessary items for Poonam.

Poonam nearly missed the opportunity when her father took her to the village and never returned towards the end of last year. The couple sought the help of Poonam’s neighbours and they sent her to Tsirang in a bus. “Luckily the father had sent her birth certificates, health card and his citizenship identity card copy when we requested,” said Mani Raj.

Poonam’s census was not registered and the girl had not received any of the immunization given to children at an early age. However Mani Raj has registered her for the diphtheria and tetanus toxoids (DT) vaccine, which she will be receiving soon.

In her new kira and tego, Poonam is a happy girl in the care of two senior girls, members of Youth Volunteer In Action.

The couple’s only worry is about her higher education. “She is a smart girl, attentive and picks up lessons quickly,” Mani Raj said. He is planning to register her for Youth Development Fund scholarship so that she will be able to continue her education after Mendrelgang Central School.

Nirmala Pokhrel