December 11 2015

Giving Girls an Education in Remote Dolpo

In collaboration with a very supportive local community,  Karuna-Shechen has built a primary boarding school in Sheri, a small under-served village located high in the Himalayan region of Dolpo. It will provide the local children, especially girls, with a unique opportunity to get an education.

In July, forty one children ages  7 to 11 began their first year of school.  We are delighted that thirty-four are girls. Most of the girls are from small surrounding villages and live in the hostel during the week as their homes are far away.  Ultimately, the school will accommodate 100 students, and girls will always be the majority.

With 5 classrooms, 2 dormitories, a kitchen and dining room, storage rooms and two rooms for teachers, the school we built offers a perfect learning environment and comfortable living conditions.

A BOARDER’S DAY

Regardless of their ages, most children had never studied, or studied very little, at a school before.  Because of this they all are enrolled in Grade One. They have a stimulating full day of classes from 9AM until 3PM, followed by time for homework and play. After supper they can participate in organized activities like singing and dancing.

A GOOD DIET HELPS

Children can not properly study on an empty stomach, and we make sure that our students receive nutritious traditional throughout the day. A hired cook and two volunteers from the village cook and serve. Breakfast is  tea with either buckwheat bread and boiled potatoes or momos (dumplings). For lunch and supper, students generally eat rice, lentil soup and vegetables. They also get butter and salt tea along with tsampa, a roasted flour of barley or wheat, for snacking during the day. Healthy and traditional. Yum!

COMMITTED  TEACHERS

The local government school board appointed only two teachers to the school with one also serving as the principal. Additional teachers were definitely needed and Karuna-Shechen provided the financial support to our local partner, the Himalayan Dolpo Gakar-Hungtrampa Foundation, to hire two more teachers. This will enhance the curriculum by adding English, Tibetan and music as well as traditional songs and dances.

EDUCATION, A WEAPON TO END POVERTY

Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.”

The Upper Dolpo region is home to some of the highest villages found on earth. It has breathtaking mountain scenery and a vibrant Buddhist culture. Because of its remoteness, the 5,000 people living in the mountains surrounding Sheri are largely forgotten by the government and the many NGOs that operate in Nepal. There is very little emphasis on economic development and education for the region.

In and around Sheri, the majority of people, adults and children, are illiterate and can only speak a local Tibetan dialect. Villages are widely scattered throughout  the mountains making most public schools too far for children to attend. The schools that do exist, have too few teachers and lack basic facilities  such as running water or even benches.

As a result, the younger population is trapped in a cycle of poverty and underdevelopment. Unfortunately this is also the situation in many other remote districts of Nepal that get passed over by the government. Girls are  first to suffer from this lack of access to education because the families usually send the boys away to school if they can afford it.

Karuna-Shechen aims to reverse this situation. We strongly believe that giving girls access to education in Dolpo and other remote areas is key to ending poverty. This new school is only a first step towards offering a better and more hopeful future to the people of this region.