From Rural Village to Big City

For 5-year-old Destiny, attending school
is a priority. 

Past School Days

Memories of my school days are not pleasant. The early morning household chores in the dimness of dawn left my tiny hands frozen. I could not avoid these duties because they guaranteed my early dinner after school.

The long journey along the narrow dew-sprayed path that wound through the graveyard always gave me stomach chills. With a brave face my sister Sarah would drag me along. Her loud breaths and tight grip of my wrist proving she was also afraid.

In rainy seasons it was worse. With no umbrella at home, our mother made makeshift plastic raincoats from used sugar packets collected throughout the year. The raincoats were too short to reach our feet so we had to walk in the mud barefoot for almost 2 miles, and wash our mud plastered legs in a shallow well near the school fence.

Many friends stopped coming to school. They were not called for attendance anymore. I did not see them again.

Sometimes my feet got swollen and stiff after walking the long distance home, so I would have to stop on the way for a rest.

Fortunately, our father got a transfer with the army, and we moved from our village into the army compound with him, so the school was just a few minutes away. Life changed and going to school became exciting.

Looking Back

Sadly almost twenty years later, not much has changed at my first school. The graveyard now stretches wider and the pathways have tall grass and shrubs especially in the rainy seasons.

I live in the city and have realized that it is not only children from rural areas with poor roads that have to walk long distances to get an education, but many children from urban areas also walk for hours to and from school.

Urban girls are harassed both physically and verbally when they use public transport. Young girls are approached while walking on remote paths. While the experiences are different from situation to situation, the outcome is fairly common. When long journeys to school are paired with household labor demands, the impact on attendance is likely to be particularly strong. Often girls choose to engage in basic jobs in order to earn their family an income rather than to walk long distances to school.

The negative impacts of longer journeys on mental well-being, physical health, and schooling rear their ugly head for both girls and boys and raises a reason for early dropout.