Education
 Nepal
Project #2415

Improve education for Nepali girls and minorities

by The Santi School Project
Students study in a hut made of bamboo and plastic
Students study in a hut made of bamboo and plastic

It’s wintertime in Nepal, and the harsh weather means life continues to be difficult for millions of Nepalis in rural areas living in temporary shelters made of bamboo and plastic.

More than nine months have passed since the devastating earthquake last spring, and many rural communities are still working to rebuild homes and schools. The government and large international charities have been slow to start up reconstruction work. A nationwide fuel crisis, precipitated by an “unofficial blockade” by India for nearly four months, has only exacerbated the problems.

Despite all this, we are proud to announce that we’re making strong progress renovating two classrooms at Shree Devi Lower Secondary School, in the Nallu village development committee of Lalitpur district. The school has 138 students, from kindergarten through grade eight.

Students there -- like so many children in areas where the earthquakes destroyed or damaged school buildings -- have been studying in a temporary learning center made of bamboo with a roof of plastic sheets, which does not do an adequate job of protecting them from the elements. Thankfully, we expect they will move inside their new classrooms very soon.

Engineers along with the vice district education officer for Lalitpur conducted a monitoring visit at the school in mid January and approved of the construction work. The vice principal of the school has been particularly helpful in overseeing the renovations.

This is one of 14 different schools that we plan to provide earthquake renovations this year. We expect that many of these projects will break ground in the next month or so.

Thank you for your support to help make these projects possible.

Engineers supervise reconstruction work.
Engineers supervise reconstruction work.
Our chairman briefs local officials on the work.
Our chairman briefs local officials on the work.
Reading a book about earthquakes.
Reading a book about earthquakes.

On the morning of September 15, our staff members set out for the northeastern part of Kathmandu district, around 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from the city center. It was one of the areas of  Kathmandu district that suffered the most earthquake damage last spring.

The scenery of the countryside as we crossed Sankhu, an ancient Newari town, was mesmerizing. The journey was mostly smooth as the road was blacktopped. At two places, the road was not in a very good condition due to the monsoon rains. Once, we had to get off the jeep and push it – a ritual that our staff are too familiar with these days.

That day was Children’s Day in Nepal and all the kids were busy getting involved in one of the extra-curricular activities that were being organized at Bal Jyoti Lower Secondary School, which runs classes from nursery to grade eight. One student came inside the office and picked up a book we had brought about earthquakes. He seemed to enjoy reading it.  Like many children, he still has many questions on his mind about earthquakes.

We inspected the damaged school building at Bal Jyoti and the teachers briefed our team about how the school and the community coped in the aftermath of the earthquakes. We also discussed various components of our reconstruction work. We also visited two other schools that day that had been damaged by the earthquakes. 

A few days later, we were able to sign an agreement with the Department of Education, the government agency that is responsible for coordinating school reconstruction after the earthquakes, to repair nine schools. We are preparing to sign a second agreement for six additional schools, for a total of 15.

We are also in the process of getting the designs for the construction approved by the engineering section of the Department of Education. After this step, we will sign individual agreements with each of the 15 beneficiary schools and  coordinate with other government agencies to get their approvals. We hope that actual construction work will begin in November.

Reconstruction work will begin in November
Reconstruction work will begin in November
Fortunately, this schoolyard is still intact.
Fortunately, this schoolyard is still intact.
Despite hardship, children are still smiling
Despite hardship, children are still smiling

Recently, we’ve been visiting many of our partner schools to assess the damage caused by the earthquakes in April.

Our first activity after the quake was an art and craft program for displaced children at a temporary learning center in Kathmandu. Then we hit the road to see the damage thousands of schools have suffered. Our U.S. board member, Beth Norford, joined us, and we hired a Jeep and embarked on our journey.

Driving on the bumpy dirt roads in Nepal’s mountains is quite a challenge. A local vehicle broke down on a steep slope along the way, making the road impassable. Our team abandoned the Jeep and walked for about an hour to reach our first destination among three scheduled for that day.

As we walked, we kept our spirits up by admiring the beauty that you are sure to find when you hike any trails in Nepal’s mountains. Along the way, we found some outstandingly generous people, who despite all the loss they have suffered still offered us some cucumbers to stave off the afternoon heat.

Once we reached the first school, we were greeted by the playful children who were adjusting to life with classrooms that have been partially destroyed. But there were plenty of smiles on their faces and that helped us forget the hardship of our hike.

Afterward, we hiked back to our Jeep and discovered that the other vehicle had been fixed, clearing the road. We were back on our way: there were still two other schools to visit before returning to Kathmandu. It was a long day, but the trip gave us invaluable insights about the situation on the ground.

One of the schools we visited was Guru Lower Secondary School of Bukhel Village Development Committee of Lalitpur district.The two-room classroom building that we helped build at Guru in 2013 is the only building still standing in the village, which had about 50 homes. Government inspectors judged this building to be safe to conduct classes, and the school is currently using it. However, the other six classrooms were deemed unsafe and have been demolished.

Here’s a few of the schools in Lalitpur district that we have worked with in the past, have visited recently and plan to help by rebuilding classrooms damaged by the earthquake:

Guru Lower Secondary School, which has 160 students up to grade eight. We plan to complete construction of the first floor of a building with three classrooms.

Baleshwori Higher Secondary School, which has 250 students up to grade 12. The school has asked us to renovate one damaged building, rebuild toilets and install a water distribution system for those toilets.

Kali Devi Higher Secondary School, which has an enrollment of more than 350 students studying from nursery to grade 12. We intend to help the school renovate one building, provide furniture for grade one and two classes and provide mats for the nursery.

At all three schools we also plan to provide books to start classroom libraries for kids at lower grades, to make books accessible to the students and promote a culture of reading.

In addition, we have announced plans to work with two other schools, in Dolakha district:

One project will rebuild eight classrooms for Kshamawati Higher Secondary School in Suspa Kshamawati VDC. It is the oldest government-registered school in Dolakha district, with 450 students from nursery to grade 12. The majority of the students are members of the disadvantaged Thami ethnic minority

The other project is Durga Higher Secondary School in a community called Maga Pauwa VDC. The school was established in 1962 and has more than 500 students studying from nursery to grade 12. Our focus is on the primary level, with about 150 students from nursery to grade 5 benefitting from the carpeting, cushions and classroom furniture as well as early childhood education training for teachers.

If damage is limited, classrooms are still used
If damage is limited, classrooms are still used
Tents are a common sight on school grounds
Tents are a common sight on school grounds
Our team in Nepal
Our team in Nepal
Private homes in villages have collapsed
Private homes in villages have collapsed
New chairs and tables at Pathibhara Primary School
New chairs and tables at Pathibhara Primary School

We are Continuing Infrastructure Support for our Partner Schools

The winter is the dry season in Nepal and this is when we start the infrastructure projects of our partner schools. This winter as well, we have partnered with four schools to meet their infrastructural needs. Here is a summary of the work and their status.

Pathibhara Primary School:

We have met the requirements for furniture for close to 100 at Pathibhara Primary School, Kapan, Budhanilkantha municipality, Kathmandu district. In addition to carpeting the floor and providing cushions for nursery class, we have also prepared chairs and tables, provided dry and erase boards through the collaboration between the Avionte Hope Foundation of Avionte Solutions and provided armchairs through NLD Training company. The furniture were handed over to the school amidst a function held at the school on February 18, 2015.

Vishwamitra Ganesh Secondary School:

We have helped the Vishwamitra Ganesh Secondary School, Jyamirkot, Mahalaxmi municipality, Lalitpur district to complete two rooms on the third floor of a school building. The school had only finished the construction of the framing structure of the third floor. The school was completed rooms were handed over to the school management committee by the district education officer of Lalitpur amidst a function held at the school on February 28, 2015.

Waltraud Northdurfter, member of the Austrian Alpine Association, Imst Oberland Section, contributed funds for this on the occasion of her seventieth birthday.

Bidhyadhishwori Higher Secondary School:

We are supporting the Bidhyadhishwori Higher Secondary School, Ashrang VDC, Lalitpur district to complete the two rooms of a school building. The school had completed the frame of the two floors and we are supporting the construction of two classrooms on the first floor. Work is at an initial stage with concrete blocks being prepared and it is expected to be completed by mid May.

Saraswoti Bidhyashram Secondary School:

We are supporting the fixing of doors and windows shutters at Saraswoti Bidhyashram Secondary School, Chandapur VDC, Lalitpur district. The shutters are being prepared with the work expected to be completed by mid March.

Thank you for your support to make these projects, and our teacher training program, possible.

We helped finish the 3rd floor of this school
We helped finish the 3rd floor of this school

Our principals in Nepal say thank you

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, Santi School would like to express our gratitude to all of you reading this – our supporters who help make all of our work possible. And, we'd like to extend some words of thanks from the principals we work with in Nepal.

Here's some news from the field that we'd like to pass along:

A new drinking water system

Saat Kanya Primary School: Bhattedanda village development committee, Lalitpur district

Saat Kanya Primary School in the Lalitpur district of central Nepal did not have running water for six months, during the dry season, from December to May. Students needed to bring water from home every day. The school asked for our help to set up a drinking water system that would supply the school year round; we agreed to do so by investing $1,100 out of the total estimated cost of $1,500.

Now the school has drinking water for the whole year. We have also set up drinking water points that are accessible to all the students ages 4 to 10 who are studying at the school.

Mitha, the school principal, was grateful for our support. She said, “We are very thankful for Santi School for the help it provided us. We had approached various organizations but none of them came forward to help us. Your organization helped us to provide the basic necessity for our school children. The whole community is very thankful and would like to thank you from bottom of their hearts. They have promised to thank you on personally when we organize a program to hand over the water system that has been set up.”

Completing the first floor of a new school building

Jana Jagriti Higher Secondary School: Ikudole village development committee, Lalitpur district

Jana Jagriti Higher Secondary School in Laltipur district of central Nepal did not have enough classroom space. We helped them complete four rooms of a first-floor building that was partially constructed.

The school administration organized a ceremony to inaugurate the new school building. The principal, Hari, thanked us and said, “With the support of your organization, we have been able to complete the construction of the first floor of our building. This has really helped us conduct our classes in spacious rooms with sufficient sunlight. We remain indebted to you.”

During that ceremony, we were very touched by the efforts the students made to thank us. Almost all the students, around 150, brought a garland each from their homes and put it around our neck during the ceremony. A person who was garlanded along with us did not take it off until the evening–even after we attended another program after that handover ceremony. (That's the photo above).

Completing the second floor of an existing school building

Vishwamitra Ganesh Secondary School: Lalitpur district

We have been involved with Vishwamitra Ganesh Secondary School in Lalitpur district in central Nepal since 2011, helping them with construction projects and teacher training programs. In 2013, the school was selected as one of 100 schools in Nepal to pilot the implementation of technical education in secondary level (grades nine and ten). Next year, they are upgrading that to grades 11 and 12.

However, the school does not have enough classrooms to add the additional grades. We are helping them add two rooms to their existing school building. After signing our agreement, the school principal, Thakur, thanked us and said, “With the support of your organization in completing the construction of classrooms, we were able to start the technical education in grade nine and ten. And this current support in completing the construction of two more classrooms will help us upgrade technical education to grade 11 and 12. The students and the community have benefitted from the introduction of the technical education and we are thankful to you for being a part of starting this journey.”  

A special thanks to our volunteers

Volunteers have always been a critical part of our program. We appreciate all the effort they give to living in the communities where they help teach. Volunteers live with a host family, which means they must learn a new culture and a new language, eat food they are unaccustomed to, and adjust to an entirely different way of life – all while getting to know the children and teachers at their school. And communicating with their friends and family back home can be pretty difficult at times, too.

Despite all these inconveniences and difficulties, we have received quite a number of volunteers from Nepal and abroad who want to work at our partner schools in Nepal. We are so thankful that are willing to broaden the horizons of our students, teachers and the community. We are pleased that they have formed relationships with the school where they have worked, in some cases writing to their host families and visiting them on their own, once they've finished officially working as a volunteer with us.

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Organization Information

The Santi School Project

Location: Ellicott City, MD - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.santischool.org
Project Leader:
Christopher Heun
Founder
Halethorpe, MD United States