Education is the only real ticket out of poverty for destitute, disabled, or orphaned children in Nepal. But education in Nepal isn't like it is in Western countries. Imagine not even being able to go to school or learn the basic skills needed to participate in society, to get a job, to create a better life for oneself. Without an education, a child in Nepal is destined to lead a life of extreme poverty and backbreaking labor.
An education is the only way to break the bonds of poverty, low caste, and disability. This is especially true of girls, who are often illiterate, married off before they are 14, and spend the rest of their lives bearing children and working endless hours. The literacy rate is very low, especially among women, and there is little assistance available for school expenses.
We are committed to support impoverished children until they are able to stand on their own feet. From the first five college scholarships given personally by NYOF's founder, Olga Murray, to boys from an orphanage in 1985, the number of students in our scholarship program has grown to more than 4,000. In fact, the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation is now one of the largest non-profit providers of scholarships in Nepal.
Why don't many Nepali children go to school? Government schools are often insufficient and the families cannot afford such simple items as the school uniform, supplies, and the small school fee. Private schools cost more than most families can afford. Often the family needs the money the child can earn by working. Abandoned children, of course, are forced to beg instead of study. Where schools do exist, there are often few trained teachers.
NYOF makes education possible for Nepalese children who have no other hope. We currently give scholarships to students from kindergarten through medical school.
Although 70% of Nepali children enroll in primary school, many of them drop out before the fifth grade. In the rural areas where we work, the dropout rate is very high. Often, a family simply can't afford the cost of the school uniform and school supplies, or even the very small school fee.
In several rural districts in Nepal, we give scholarships to thousands of children to cover their school expenses. This is the first generation in most of these areas to receive an education. The cost—about $75 a year per child—is an incredible investment. An education will best prepare these youngsters for the very difficult future that awaits them, since an increasing number of the next generation in Nepal's overpopulated hills will inherit no land and will have no choice but to find their fortune in the cities.
We've seen some interesting ripple effects from this program. Our scholarships motivate parents other than those whose children we support to send their children to school, too. There is social pressure in the village when some kids go to school and others do not. (Keeping up with the Joneses, Nepali style.) Some parents hope that their children will also be sponsored if they start school. The headmaster at one school told us that there was a noticeable rise in general attendance at his school after our scholarship program began.
NYOF’s field worker visits the schools regularly to check on the children and to see how the school is functioning. To do the job, he walks the mountain paths of isolated rural areas, sometimes ten hours a day, stopping at various village schools along the way to survey the situation and discuss problems with the headmasters and students.
A super-generous donor is supporting the education of 400 girls in rural areas of Nepal for five years. Most of these are from the Dalit (untouchable) community. The members of these low castes are among the most downtrodden people in the world. A few of these girls have already graduated from high school, and there is a NYOF college schoolarship waiting for them.
We have asked some of the girls we support in rural schools to write about their lives and ambitions. Pushpa, a student in class five writes, “Despite the …adversities, I am not hopeless….I am studying hard because I am determined to become a nurse and take care of the poor.” Kamala, who is in the 8th grade says: “After getting this scholarship I have been able to go to school regularly and keep myself neat and clean.” And Menuka writes, “I am happy that this scholarship has provided an opportunity for us to get education on an equitable basis with other rich and high class people. We can also become a renowned person if we get equal access of education.”
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