Freedom to Learn's work in Nepal has revolutionised how children from some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities gain improved access to and quality of education and improve their subsequent life chances. We achieve this by determining the barriers that impede education in state schools in Nepal and then develop and provide workable relevant responses to address these issues, from bikes to school, to teacher training, to school meals, for just under 5000 children across 6 schools.
Challenge: State education in Nepal is severely underfunded, violence in schools is endemic, government school teachers are under qualified and underpaid with limited resources to meet infrastructure needs, running costs, water and sanitation and essential educational materials. The children who attend government schools in Nepal are from the poorest and most vulnerable families in the community, often discriminated against for attending a state school, and therefore more often than not, don't go to school
Solution: We work to challenge and change this prejudice. Given the myriad of difficulties in the Nepali education system the need for creative and innovative solutions is ever more pertinent. We work with teachers, parents and students to develop a multi-faceted and child-centred teaching approach - including employing teachers, training teachers, providing essential school materials, a bikes to school initiative, improving water and sanitation facilities, careers counselling, hot school meals and more.
Long-Term Impact 1. Improved academic experience and associated performance 2. An increase in student self-esteem and well-being, as children feel valued and thrive in a much more positive and aspirational educational setting. 3. Increased attendance by staff and pupils. 4. Community increasingly valuing and feeling a part of the school. 5. Healthier stronger children able to concentrate and focus in class. 6. Increased understanding of the value of school and a quality education across the whole community.
Ride for Life- Sunils story
Our Ride for Life programme continues to be a success, with more students encouraged to attend school because they will be able to learn how to ride a bike and maintain it. Our skilled and passionate facilitators run workshops once a week across 5 schools. For many of our students this is the first time they will have ridden a bike. We would like to tell you about one of our students named Sunil. Sunil, like many of our students, comes from a difficult background. He did not see the point of attending school and decided to leave and to work as a bus conductor. This is a hazardous job that is not suitable for a boy as young as Sunil. Our staff were increasingly concerned about Sunil’s welfare living in the streets and working on the buses, and through our outreach programme the team were able to talk with Sunil and persuade him to come back to school to continue his education. Sunil mentioned his interest in the bikes so the facilitators asked Sunil if he would like to help out with the workshops and could also use a bike if he came back to school. Sunil was delighted with this offer and has since returned home and is attending school every day, as well as assisting the Ride for Life team with bike maintenance and of course riding the bikes too! If it wasn’t for the bikes Sunil would still be living with other street children and working the buses, not attending school regularly and getting the experience of volunteering and supporting other children to learn to ride bikes. His is one story of many made possible by your generosity.
Bina, one of our teachers, was also one of our earliest students. Her story demonstrates the amazing difference supporting Freedom to Learn can make, not only to an individual, but the 'ripple effect' that can have on a whole community.
Bina was one Freedom to Learn’s first students in Nepal. She is from a poor family in a rural village in the Himalayan foothills, the eldest of 4 siblings, 3 sisters and ‘only one a boy’. In Bina’s community this was regarded as extremely bad fortune. Back in 2011 at the age of 12 she was not regularly attending school and had fallen far behind, destined as so many of her peers to leave school within the next year and be readied for marriage. As a young girl she was expected to carry out the chores at home; cooking, cleaning and looking after smaller children. Her family didn’t regard school as important for girls, so neither did Bina.
As part of our Act on Education Programme, Freedom to Learn teachers spent a few weeks visiting Bina’s family, slowly persuading them that if she could get an education and pass her exams she could help her family much more in the long term. They finally agreed Bina could join the newly set up ‘Act on Education’ classes at school, supporting Bina with her self-confidence, catching up with school work and engendering the feeling that she belonged to the school community again.
She continued on the Act on Education Programme for 2 years, her confidence flourished and her learning excelled. Attending school regularly at this point, she passed all of her exams in 2016, and was accepted to do a Bachelor's Degree in Education in 2017. At the same time, Freedom to Learn set up their Model School Programme at Kushadevi School where Bina began working as a teaching assistant earning a reasonable wage and gaining valuable work experience. Qualifying this year she has now joined Freedom to Learn’s team as a primary school English Teacher.
She is hard working and committed, understanding more than most the difference an education can bring. Her qualifications and job has of course brought home more money, which has eased the family’s financial situation and taken the pressure off the younger sisters to work so that they too can now get an education. It has also served to change her parents’, and their neighbouring families’, perspective of school, as they have watched Bina flourish into a successful young woman.
We asked Bina to write a few words to you, she says, “I love the children at school, I can understand the families here as I am from the same community, the same background. I can relate to the parents and show what their children coming to school will do, not only for the children, but for the whole family”
Kushadevi's headteacher says: “Bina has a number of skills and knowledge particularly in how to encourage children and staff to work together, to be loving and help each other. I think this was learned directly from Freedom to Learn’s Act on Education workshops. It means she has been a boon to the team. I remember her as a girl, my goodness, she is very different now!”