One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. ‘Malala Yousafzai’

I think, slowly you already know how interesting Nepal is and how great it is to visit.
And you also know that Nepal is a totally different country then the western countries.
Live is organized in a different way, a way we often don’t understand. Education is one of does thing we hardly understand when we visit Nepal.
At any time of the day you can see children walk to and from school. Every year I have to ask Doma or Keshab (Doma’s youngest and the family’s most clever boy) how things are working in their education system, and you know sometimes they also don’t know.

A students live start in the Day Care Center. But not everywhere they have a daycare center. Mostly there is one in big city’s like pokhara, Sauraha and Kathmandu, or cities where tourist comes. This is the Nepalese version of the kinder gardens school. Young mamas bring their children to the daycare center, so that they can work freely on the field, or in the house, or even in the forest, without being disturbed. Children are between 3 and 5 years old. In a good Day care center they learn quit a lot like the ABC, counting, etc. Mostly in Nepalese, and sometimes in English. It all depends on the number of foreign volunteers there are in the daycare center. Those volunteers are mostly recent graduates. Before they start their own real live in their home country, they are doing one special trip with a meaning. And then they end up in a country as Nepal. And when they come, they bring the newest techniques in education with them.
Volunteers I have a mix feeling with them. When they arrive here they also have the newest laptop or Smartphone with them, and go to places where they never seen white people before, and there they tell to the teacher who already teach 100 years same way, how he have to do his job. And then after one, two or three months, the volunteers go back home and leave the teacher alone again. So he has to get back to his old fashion way of teaching. Imagine you are the teacher. Anyway in the daycare center the volunteers are mostly a blessing. There is always a big group of young children, so all the help is welcome. And Volunteers also take care of the necessary funds for the daycare center.

After the daycare center, the children can choose, actually it are the parents who can choose, either the children can go to a private school are a government school. Actually it is an easy choice. Who have money, or people that think that education is not that important, they send their children to the government school. All the rest going to the more good private schools. Both have one thing in common: all children have to wear a uniform. In a uniform, all children are equal, rich or poor there is no difference. It makes it a little bit romantic, nostalgic, and it gives the country a beautiful color. For the parents it can be expansive, but nobody complain about it. And I think: it should stay that way.

Doma had to quit school because of financial problems, that’s why she realizes how important education is for somebody. Lucky, Keshab, the youngest in the Paudel family is also the most cleaver one in the family. And it gives hope to the whole family that education will repay it selves. Actually all the parents in Nepal have hope in this. It’s give proud to the people if they can tell their friends or family that their daughter study as a nurse in Australia, or the son study engineer in Japan or Korea.
So from the beginning Keshab going to a private school. And I think there are quite a lot of private schools in Nepal, maybe even more private schools then government schools.
The smartest children are often sponsored by a local hotel or by the hotel manager, or even by a rich/important villager. For those people it gives proud if their pupils doing well in school. And so they are paying a part of the education of the children. If the student brings a good number at the end of the year then children get something extra, like a bicycle or new uniform, ….
Also the private schools are sponsoring their own students. Most specially during the last years of school. There is quit some competition between the schools to have the most brilliant students in their school. All want the best students in their school, so that gives the school a good name. Students pay more to go to a school like that, and teachers also like it to teach in a school with good fame.

In Nepal there are 12 classes. There is no difference between primary school and high school. So children can easily go to the same school for 12 years. But often school only go to 8th class or only till 10th class. Most poor, or governement schools, or schools in the mountains or in far away parts of the country only have till 8th class. After that, the children have to go to a big city where they can go on till 12th class. It’s possible that the school is too far from home, so the children have to stay with family, or other relatives that live more close to the school.
The students realize what quant of sacrifice their parents have to do, to let them go to school.

Most schools start somewhere between 9 and 10 in the morning. So children have enough time to reach the school (some have to walk 2 hours before they reach school). Before that, children have time to help little bit in the kitchen, or have a lunch. That save money witch they don’t have to spend in school. Around 16.00, school is over. When there are not enough classrooms, then some children have to start early and end early, others have to start late, and end late. There aren’t 2 schools the same, in start and ending hour. During the examinations, the schedule changes. Children have to stay for study, or they have to start more early. There is always a difference in which grade they are. Older kids have to stay longer in school then the younger ones. And then there is also a big difference between private and government schools. That explains why you always see children walking from and to school.

Some children can go to school with the bus, others have to walk or take the bicycle. And if you have to walk or cycle a long way towards the school, then many things can happen. It’s possible that it’s just too hot on the way and the cool river looks real beautiful. So you prefer a dive in the river, which makes that you forgot all about school. Or it’s possible that on the way, there are some angry monkey’s blocking the way, and road to school is blocked. Etc etc.
The list of absence in the school can be quit long, especially in the mountain area, and in the far away parts of the country. And it all starts with the principal. In government schools there is often one principal for seven or eight schools, and some schools are far from the other, so the principal is always on the way, and sometime’s few weeks not available. In government schools teacher aren’t pay good money. Sometimes they live, just as the children, far away from school. And some need to rent a sleeping place, close by school. They come only when it fits them. If it’s time for harvesting, then they stay home to help on the field. Lucky, most holidays are in the same time of the plantation, or the harvesting. But that gives that 40 children have to stay in the same class. Sometimes first, second and/or third class is for one teacher. That’s good for the most cleaver children, but for the most, this is a difficult situation.

Teaching in Nepal, is for western people, quit old fashion. Children don’t have to learn, teachers drill them. 5x1 is 5,5x2 is 10 5x3 is 15, …. And so on. And children have to do it as loud as possible, so they also could hear them in the next village. Classes look like Western classes, 100 years ago. Children have to sit on a hard wooden bench, and with 4 or 5 on the same one. The only thing that’s different then one hunderd years ago, is that children use pen and paper. In faraway places some teachers still beat the children when they don’t do well, or they give public punishment to the children. Luckily, also in there they are at the doorstep of a new education revolution. Still it will take few more years, but hea also Kathmandu and Pokhara aren’t build in one week.

The most important year for the student is 10th class. Here, the 16year old kids have to prove themselves. In this year they have to give the best of what they got. In this year they have to finish the national examination. That’s an examination which is the same in whole Nepal, and where schools don’t have any influence. The examinations are sending around the country, so people who correct the file don’t know whose file they have. They don’t know the students. Afterwards, the result becomes public on national level.
For the schools this is extremely important. They all want to have and want to attract the most cleaver student too their school. The preparation takes months.

And so it goes in the Paudel Family. This school year start as any other school year, only now and then the children have a test examination. After a few months they have to stay a little longer in study. Approcamatly 3 months before the examination it becomes more serious. Then school also start more early. Students have to be in school at 8, and it’s finished after 17.
And so it goes on. 2 months before the exams, they have to stay the whole week at school. The school gives a schedule to the children, and it’s quit hard. Actually it starts at Saturday evening. Then everybody has to be in school by 17hour where they have study till 22. They can sleep till 5 in the morning then start the new day with study till 8. At 8 o’clock, regular class start till 17, and from that time, they have study again till 22 hours. The students don’t have much free time, only little bit to eat. Family has to bring the food to school. Twice a day. On the Saturday they got study till 8, and from that time they can come home. So it’s about 9 o’clock when Keshab comes home. He don’t have any free time because he have to do some homework, take shower and the uniform have to be cleaned. Lucky all family members help him. One washing the clothes, other helping in the homework, and other one taking care of the food.
Then they have the SLC examination. But first they also have an examination like any other year. They get examination in Nepali, compulsory English, compulsory Math’s, Population, Health, Science, Account and optional Math’s and Economics.
And then waiting start, waiting and waiting and waiting for the result. At least half year before the result comes.
The boys and girls with the highest score can go to the most prestigious schools. Every school likes to have the smartest students. They make big banners with the pictures of the students, and they put the banner on the place where all villagers can see it.
In the other schools they also give lots of efforts to get there students on a higher level. They give awards or price money for those who are has the highest number in each class. So students who are first in math’s can earn 1000 rupees, second get 800 and third still get 500. For the students it means a lot.
Schools also give scholarships, or giving extra money to the parents, or even giving free bus transportation to the schools.

25 % of all Nepalese cannot read or write. But that’s because of the old generation. Today almost all children go to school. At least the first years. Only the girls stay little bit behind in the statics. In far away areas the girls have to take care of the family at young age. And sometimes they marry quit young, but that’s another story.
One of the 3 causes to be qualified as a third world county is a shortage of good education system. So if the Nepalese government keeps on giving lot of supports to the schools and the education system, it can be cleared of the status of third world country.
So give each Nepalese child, one teacher, one pen and one book, and it can, step by step, throw the poor situation out of the country.

Building and rebuilding The Wasbang School in the Chepang hills,
a story of hope.

My mind was very heavy, and the rest of the body was full of pressure. We made a promise and we gave our word. We are going to rebuild the school in Wasbang.
After the big earthquake in April 2015, all Nepali who didn’t have any damage, wanted to help other Nepalees people. After all we are one country, and foreigners don’t always understand our situation. Rebuilding half a country will take a lot of time and it will be a big challenge. Of course there is a lot of money coming from other countries all over the world, but people cannot eat money, they cannot sleep in the money. You have to do something with that money. After the earthquake rescue teams came to help us and stay one month, some two months, and even there were some who stay little longer, but they cannot stay forever. Nepalees people have to work themselves in rebuilding and repairing the country.
Lucky we also have some private foreign sponsors who are prepared to support us. Such an opportunity we take with both hands. And so we start looking for places where the need was high. That place we find quit close to our place. We find it in the Chepang Hills. A few hours driving from the main road, well hidden for the tourists, in the mountains and almost 70 kilometers from Sauraha. The further people live from the main road, the more poor they are, and less they own.

At the beginning we didn’t realize quit well that it was a very difficult location to reach. But before we started, we were asking the president of the school, and some school members what they think about rebuilding the school. They say, why not, we can manage it, we can do it. The most important question was; can we carry all the materials into the mountains, to the right place? And so we went on a search, which leads us to the jeep driver, the tractor driver and some locals, who know all about the area.

We started with the easiest part: the roofing. And that went well.
After we finished the roof work, we had a break in the process, because it became quit cold in the mountains, and because of other projects we couldn’t manage a good timing.
The original plan was to put plaster on the bamboo and fix it in a metal net on the wall. Bamboo and metal nets are light materials and quit easy to carry. But there was a problem with the windows and doors. So we had to change our idea, and choose to work with a strong, brick stone wall. And actually that gave us a more practical problem. There is no transportation possible up till here. So we had to carry all the bricks, sand, gravel, cement… up till the place where the school is build.

So Shiva Rana Magar and I were heading to Wasbang on 27th February. It became a dangerous expedition, with too many people in the overloaded jeep. One moment I became really scared when the jeep start riding backwards and no brakes where working. Luckily on the way, people where getting off and one other jeep came towards us to help carrying people and supply’s up. Finally, we reach Wasbang around 11 pm.

The next day, the 28th, Dip Bahadur chepang and his 4 friends went to invite all the villagers to come and support and help us carrying the materials from the dropping point to the school. Generally, the villagers (mostly the lady’s) supposed to start working 11:00 am but all were so busy. They had to carry buffalo dunk in the fields, do the plantation of corn, and many other daily jobs. And the men were very busy in rebuilding and repairing their own houses witch where damaged after the earthquake. They can start now because recently they received some budget from the government.
One other problem we faces is that some people living in one mountain village, and others are living in others villages, on another mountainsides so it takes some time till the news is spread and they gathered from the different villages. That we could understand. For us it’s quite difficult to set up a strict time schedule. So we didn’t know what to expect.

Among the feelings of nervousness and excitement we went to the place where the materials where dropped by the jeep and tractor drivers. At 1:00 pm there was not a single person who came to help us carry the materials. How this is possible? It gave me a lot of pressure in the mind. How come nobody is coming to help us? Why did we choose such a difficult place for rebuilding a school? So thinking was running inside the mind all the time.
After long waiting, one lady came to help us but she was caring her baby. She had a half year old baby in the lab (that means caring the baby in front of the women). With the lady there where also many small children coming. We wanted to look after the baby's but the baby was crying, even we gave food to the child, it didn’t stop. It didn't want to leave the mama.

While the lady started caring 10 to 20 brick on the back and baby in the front, I had tears in my eyes. I had sad feelings and I couldn't stop them because we had to be selfish for the moment. After all we have to bring all the sand, gravel and brick up the mountain. It's a real steep mountain so it's quite tuff. Specially if you are born and live on the flat land. Sometimes we hear the children crying in the mountains. I was nervous and hoping that children don’t fall down, or the baby falling out the mama’s lab. If something happened, then what to do?

Slowly more and more people start coming to help us. Almost 90% were women. Me, I went up the mountain, in the school place for helping and managing the things. Down, Shiva dai helped for carrying and making correct quantities. Some people could carry more, some less. At 5:00 pm, we gave snacks and drinks to all villagers. At that time there were almost 100 people. By the end of the first day we finished almost half the materials. So still there was more than half to carry the next day. They all promised to come back to continue the work. So we gave enough food to encourage them. They were really happy with that.

The next day at 11:00 pm people start coming from all around. It was an amazing sight, and impressive, and it gave me new power and new hope. Actually all were very happy that we are going to build a new school for their children.
By 5.30pm we finished carrying all the materials up the mountain. At the time we had a snack there where almost 200 people together with their children. There are so many children, and villagers came from 4 or 5 different villages far in the area. Some people say that it was looking like the fair in the village.

Most of the people who came to help us where women (90%). Maybe they understand better the importance of education. After all when we finish our job, the school will be there’s and they have to manage themselves. The school can bring a more bright future for their children.

Still we have to bring up the cement, and our working team for building the school, but now we have new hope. We can feel a little bit relax that we already finish the biggest job in this project. We are great full and thanks full to all villagers that they support for carrying, otherwise it was impossible to catch our goal.

And of course a big thanks for my Japanese friends who make this possible.
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