The Shree Praja Jyoti Primary School is a government-supported primary school that was founded in 1991 as part of the Nepalese government’s education strategy. The school is located in Gandaki Village-7, Ghyalchowk Beltar Gorkha, Province No. 4, on the banks of the River Trishuli. This stunning river flows between Dhading and the Gorkha district and is world-renowned for rafting. It takes two and a half hours (90 kilometres) to travel from Kathmandu to Majhimtar Dhading to the school, taking the Prithivi motorway followed by a 30-minute hike up the mountain. The school has 65 pupils, 29 girls and 36 boys, from the Chepang (a marginalised community of people from the local area). They represent the third year of early childhood development (ECD).
The Chepang are an indigenous Tibeto-Burmese community inhabiting the ridges of the Mahabharat mountain range in central Nepal. The reserved, nomadic Chepang have taken a more open approach over the past two or three generations, and are now semi-nomadic. They normally live in caves or thatched huts and are dependent on the increasingly limited production of crops such as maize, millet and bananas, as well as fishing.
Poverty, insufficient education and a lack of medical facilities mean that the Chepang are often poorly educated, and this is particularly the case for children, older people and women. Children are greatly disadvantaged and often suffer from malnutrition, pneumonia, diarrhoea, typhoid, etc. Dysmenorrhea and uterine bleeding are similarly common among women, caused by child marriages, inadequate nutrition and unhygienic living conditions. The Chepang are one of the most at-risk communities in Nepal and are towards the bottom of the Human Development Index (HDI).
Tara Namaste’s objective is to enable Chepang children to attend primary school and then subsequently access further education.
While 65 Chepang pupils are registered at the Shree Praja Jyoti Primary School, children frequently fail to attend school and skip class. The main reason for this? Poverty. Children often need to take up work to supplement their family’s income or they need to look after younger siblings while their parents are at work. Children need to be supported to ensure they can attend school on a regular basis: this is the only way for them to complete their basic education and then attend secondary schools.
‘Children’s sporadic attendance at school is primarily down to poverty. If we can offer support in the form of food, learning materials and clothes, they will attend school on a regular basis,’ says Ms Nirmala Aryal Regmi, the school’s headteacher.
Actions to help:
Assistance with food – distributing lunches
Food is the cornerstone of human survival. People living below the poverty line will always need to fight for their food, so it’s a huge help if food is provided for them. As part of this aid programme, pupils receive a nutritious lunch. For their parents, it’s one more reason to send their child to school, and the food programme also motivates children to attend school regularly. As a result, malnutrition is reduced, performance at school is improved, and truancy is minimised.
Distributing school resources: educational assistance
This aid programme provides children with school resources like textbooks, rucksacks, notepads, pencils, erasers, sharpeners and chalk. On the one hand, these resources are a great help in and of themselves, and on the other, they motivate children to attend school regularly.
Distributing uniforms: clothes and shoes
Children are unable to attend school because their parents are experiencing financial difficulties and cannot afford school supplies. The financial burden borne by children’s parents or guardians is eased if they can be provided with their school uniforms, shoes and bags via the aid programme. However, this comes with the expectation that parents and guardians will send their children to school and encourage them to attend.
The Tara Namaste Foundation Nepal (TNF) is a non-partisan, apolitical, non-governmental charitable organisation registered with the regional government of Kathmandu. At present, this organisation is carrying out projects in the Gorkha and Jhapa districts, focusing on children’s health, education and the development of infrastructure for people below the poverty line. This programme has the financial backing of the Tara Namaste Foundation Liechtenstein.
The programme outlined above is also supported by the Tara Namaste Foundation Nepal in collaboration with Community Initiatives Nepal (CIN), a non-governmental organisation active in the healthcare, sanitation, environmental and education sectors and focused on supporting underprivileged people in urban and rural areas of Nepal.
Our programme outlined above improves Chepang families’ quality of life and enables their children to access education over the long term. The number of children in school will increase, improving the level of learning and education for increasing numbers of children, and the quality of nutrition will ultimately ensure that quality of life in a general sense is improved.
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