Working in the high altitude Himalayas is more precarious than most other areas. Weather patterns limit project implementation to 6-8 months per year, as these areas are cut off by heavy snows during the winter months. In addition, global warming is causing weather patterns to change. This has meant that in April work has been slower than expected due to unseasonable weather, such as heavy rainfall in the Western Himalayas, and snowfall in the Eastern Himalayas.
The target for the Himalayan Education project this year is to establish 87 schools in remote villages, in addition to the 49 set up last year. So far 63 villages have been mobilized for school establishment and community buildings selected for the school. In 36 villages Village Education Committees have been set up of prominent community members and these have been trained in their roles: raising awareness of education in the village, maintaining the standards of the school, ensuring girl and disabled children are going to school.
While this work continues in the mountains, at the head offices in Gurgaon (close to Delhi) procurement of education materials and furniture for the 87 schools is under way. Over the next few months these will be trucked out to the remote villages. Our partner has learned from last year's experience of sending trucks out with the supplies, but them not arriving for weeks or months, since some drivers got lost and some found it was a nice opportunity to take in the scenery. This year project staff will be traveling with the drivers to make sure they get to their destination as quickly as they can - sight-seeing can be done afterwards!
Also in the Head Office, much work is being done to develop a curriculum that this culturally and environmentally appropriate to the Himalayas. It is hoped that this will be a key factor in building the confidence of Himalayan people, and result in greater education attainment since children will have greater interest in learning, rather than feeling defeated by a complex curriculum which isn't in their native language and is inappropriate to their lifestyles. To complement this, work is being done to develop vocational training courses to diversify livelihood options and provide alternatives to subsistence farming. These courses include eco-tourism, local crafts production, food and dairy processing, electronics, photography, among others.
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Project Leader: Steven Murdoch
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