Schooling the Schools: Empowering Government Schools in Nepal to Empower Students

Post by Nabin Aryal

It has been little more than fifteen months since Rukmini Foundation started working in the Pharping Region. One of the most important goals of our foundation is to provide quality education to the underprivileged girls of this region. In addition, we are also trying to improve overall educational environment of the community where we are working.

To achieve these objectives, we are constantly trying to find out the ways to better implement our programs at the grass root level. In order to implement these ideas, we know that we must include various stakeholders of the community in this process. Thus, during the last fifteen months, we have held dozens of meetings with influential community members: government officials, school principals, teachers, health workers, social workers, and especially leaders from underrepresented communities. Through these interactions, we have received a lot of valuable advice and also feedback on our work. One of the chief requests we have gotten so far is for Rukmini Foundation to help empower the government schools around the Pharping area to improve the overall educational status of the region.  This request fills us with pride because leaders from the local communities are seeing what we are doing with Shikharapur School and want to take part in the quality education initiatives as well as our focus of empowering underprivileged girls.

we are constantly trying to find out the ways to better implement our programs at the grass root level

A majority of the students in Nepal enroll in government schools, mainly due to affordability.  In order to make any significant impact in the education environment at the macro level, we will need to help improve the quality of the education that is being provided at these schools. In theory, the government schools provide “free” education to all, but as we have previously written about, there are significant hidden costs like, uniform, exam fee, fees for special classes, as well as the huge opportunity costs for parents. Because of these hidden costs, many students are left out, and not surprisingly, the most affected are girls, especially from impoverished backgrounds. Aside from the hidden costs, a lack of innovative approach to teaching is another major issue in the government schools.  This reduces the quality of the education, and in the eyes of many parents, makes schooling and education less appealing than having their daughters do housework or other work for little pay.

In theory, the government schools provide “free” education to all, but as we have previously written about, there are significant hidden costs like, uniform, exam fee, fees for special classes, as well as the huge opportunity costs for parents

During a recent meeting with the principals of the government schools from around the Pharping region, the principals requested that Rukmini Foundation take part in helping them empower their schools. The principals brought about some ideas on how we could help the students at their schools and improve the quality of their education.  One of the principal suggested that Rukmini Foundation could provide scholarship (financial assistance for uniforms, stationery, computer and other special classes) to some of their most underprivileged girls. Many of these girls were on the verge of dropping out of school because their parents could not afford to provide for these items even though the school itself was “free”. Other principals were interested in implementing Rukmini Foundation’s holistic programs by adding the Didi Program (mentoring), health awareness program, and project- based learning curriculum initiative to their current offerings.

The principals brought about some ideas on how we could help the students at their schools and improve the quality of their education.

We were excited about these ideas and very proud to hear that other principals in the area were noticing what we were doing and wanted to take part.  Based on these discussions, for the upcoming school year (beginning mid April 2013), Rukmini Foundation is planning to establish partnerships with three government schools from the Pharping region: Arunodaya Higher Secondary School, Setidevi High School, and Pharping Higher Secondary. These schools already have a reputation for being a quality government institution in the region, and the teachers and principals of these schools are interested in improving on this by implementing Rukmini Foundation’s programs.

The chance to help improve the quality of education and offering innovative programs to needy students is what we are all about, and the fact that we can do so without greatly increasing our costs makes this a very exciting prospect.  These schools are located very close to where we are already serving, and with a nominal investment in monitoring costs, we will be able to deliver services to more communities. At this point, we are planning to provide financial support for a few underprivileged girls to stay in school, we will also be giving advice to the schools on how to implement a mentoring program, we will be providing support for the implementation of a health awareness program, and we are working with the principals to help them implement curriculum changes like the project-based learning initiative that we have embarked on.

The chance to help improve the quality of education and offering innovative programs to needy students is what we are all about, and the fact that we can do so without greatly increasing our costs makes this a very exciting prospect

The partnerships have enormous potential for achieving the short and long-term goal of the foundation, which is to grow our offerings at a manageable pace while pursuing our long-term vision of empowering all underprivileged girls in Nepal through a holistic program of quality education, health services, and mentoring. It was truly exciting to see that the services we are offering are not just what the community needs, but also wants.  Stay tuned to find out how the selection process for the next group of students is going, and how our partnership with these new schools is shaping up.

Nabin Aryal
Progam Manager – Rukmini Foundation

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