Although 70% of Nepali children enroll in primary school, many of them drop out before the 5th 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. Furthermore, many parents expect their children to work on the family farm or do housework all day.
In several rural districts in Nepal, the Nepal Youth Foundation grants scholarships to children to cover their school expenses. This is the first generation in most of these areas to receive an education. The cost – about $100 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 fortunes competing for jobs 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. Headmasters tell us that there are noticeable rises in general attendance after we bring our scholarship program to their schools.
Our field workers visit the schools regularly to check on the children and to see how the school is functioning. To do the job, they walk 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.
The Nepal Youth Foundation supports children until they can support themselves. After they graduate from high school, we provide them with college scholarships or vocational training.