ROURKELA: They bunk classes half the week to help their family eke out a living. For nearly two dozen tribal children of forested villages, school education is secondary. Not out of choice, but under compulsion.
Suchitra Lakra (10), her elder sister Sumitra and mother Sita of interior Mundajhor village in Lathikata block of Sundargarh district trudge miles carrying heavy loads of firewood to Bondamunda market here.
With sale proceeds they return with essential food commodities. It is a regular grind for survival of the poverty-stricken Lakra family. Naturally, education holds little priority for the children who are equally conscious about their family needs.
Sita said she is forced to take the help of her daughters and lamented that the little girls could not regularly attend classes.
Illiterate with little farmland, they have no assured source of earning. Non-availability of firewood and elephants damaging crops have been a curse for them.
Sources said around 20 families hailing from the cluster of villages, including Mundajhor, Dalakudar and Betora in Lathikata block are hit hard by poverty.
These villages are close to Saranda forest and due to Maoists’ presence the field- level government officials hardly pay them a visit.
Majority of men here evade family’s responsibility which put the pressure on the womenfolk. Sumitra said she wakes up early in the morning, travels miles to the forest, collect firewood and again travels over 12 km to the Bondamunda weekly market.
On a bad day, they have to carry the load back home.
Former Bondamunda Sarpanch Rabi Majhi said the administration should help these families with realistic approach, adding with poor education these children would further contribute to the continuing socio-economic divide.