Life in the rugged western region of Nepal – some 500 miles from Kathmandu – is a constant struggle for survival. People lack adequate food, safe driving water, decent schools and primary health care. Travel is difficult. There are few roads and those that exist are in poor condition.
The most striking problem I observed while visiting the area was the high number of students who drop out of school. They are not quitting because they do not want an education, but because of the long journeys they are forced to take to get to class. Villages tend to be small – typically around 10 households in each. Since it is impossible to build a school in each village, they are constructed more or less at equal distance from the surrounding villages. As a result, some children walk as much as eight hours a day to get to and from school, trekking along dangerous trails, through dense forests and across thundering rivers. The problem is especially acute for girls, who also risk physical assault.
We discussed the problem with local teachers, students and parents in various villages and came up with a plan to build student housing – dormitories where students could stay during the week. We chose a school that served a large population of students and selected the Gaurishankar Secondary School in Doti, which is the only high school in the area that serves 30 villages.
Local villagers donated land for the project, provided volunteer labor and managed the construction work. We built two hostels – one for girls and another for boys. The hostel was limited to students who had to walk three to eight hours a day to and from school. Teachers live with the students during the week.
During a recent visit, we were overwhelmed to see the joy and gratitude of the children – no more would they have to waste hours every day and risk their lives just to attend school. We hope this project will be the first of many that will ease the burden of students in this remote and impoverished part of Nepal.
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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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