A Girl from Sindhupalchok
Ranjana was born in a village called Himdi in Sindhupalchok. This is a tremendously beautiful area with steep mountains, green valleys, and flowing rivers. This district, which extends all the way to the Northern Himalayan range, is quite famous for trekking. Living in such a wonderful place, watching your children grow up carefree sounds like a dream, but such a dream did not come to reality for Ranjana’s parents. Despite its scenic beauty and perhaps because of it, this area is very prone to frequent landslides and floods, so there is always an element of danger, but nobody could have predicted the earthquakes of 2015. Sindhupalchok district was one of the hardest hit area of the devastating earthquakes, where many people lost their lives, and many more lost their homes and livelihood. Ranjana, as a young girl, had to witness all of this, and such memories are still haunting her. Unfortunately, this was not the only example of a difficult start to her life.
A Traumatic Childhood
Ranjana grew up in a family of six: her parents, grandmother, two brothers and herself. Ranjana was the middle child, and life was not easy for her and her family in their village, but the family lived a simple yet contented life. The happiness suffered a mighty blow when her oldest brother went swimming in one of the local rivers and never returned home. The entire family was deeply affected by the tragic loss.
In a few years, Ranjan’s mother gave birth to a girl, and this brought some happiness to the family. As the family was trying to move on with their lives, the 2015 earthquakes literally rocked their lives once again. Ranjana’s family suffered a great deal as their house collapsed and her remaining brother perished in the rubble. Her father was paralyzed and became unable to work and her mother suffered physical and mental trauma. While Ranjana was lucky to not be hurt physically, the damage psychologically and emotionally for a young girl of 11 was immense. Because of all this, Ranjana does not want to remember her childhood too much, but she still misses the beautiful scenery and the tall mountains that were her home.
Escaping the disaster
After the disaster of 2015, many people from the remote areas of Nepal migrated to cities and towns in the Kathmandu valley in search of work and a way to survive. Relatives and neighbors were helping each other as much as they could and luckily for Ranjana, a distant relative provided a helping hand to her family and brought them to her home in Pharping.
Adjusting to a new School
Ranjana was admitted in 5th Grade at Setidevi School, one of the Rukmini Foundation partner schools. Although she had previously attended school in Sindhupalchok, Ranjana could barely read and write. She was also very shy and hardly spoke with anyone. Given the challenges she faced and had to deal with, it was understandable. Initially she found it quite difficult to get adjusted to a new place, and school was very difficult. She had to work extremely hard to catch up with her classmates.
Becoming a Rukmini Scholar
Ranjana (right in the middle) with her new classmates and Rukmini Didis
Ranjana became Rukmini Scholar in 2016 starting in the 5th grade. She was one of the youngest Scholars (now referred to as Bahinis) we have ever worked with. In the beginning, she was far behind in her studies due to all of the personal circumstances she and her family had to deal with. Her Headmaster, Ramkumar Basnet says, “She was haunted by the calamity and she used to cry with the mention of the word ‘earthquake’ and any mention of her family. It was too much for a little girl to bear. Through her hard work and with the help and support of the teachers and her classmates, she began to make progress quickly. Regular visits and encouragement by her Rukmini mentors gave her a great boost. Attending various inspiring programs at the Foundation helped her a great deal to overcome her trauma. She has grown stronger and made a remarkable progress in her studies.”’
She has transformed herself into someone who is not afraid to ask questions in the classroom and seek help from her teachers and friends. Her academic performances have improved significantly and feels comfortable with her classmates. She is also well adjusted with her new family who are supportive of her. She gives credit for her success to her teachers, friends, and most of all to Rukmini Foundation.
Ranjana loved Didi Programs very much that helped her understand that success does not come easy. Guest speaker Shristi K.C. Didi was her inspiration who became a successful international star of Blind Rock, a famous Motivational Speaker despite her physical disability of being blind. Ranjana learned to keep positive thinking and believing that strong will and determination can lead to success. When faced with some challenge, she remembers Shristi Didi who gives her strength to face any situation and move ahead.
Ranjana tries to understand any problem thoroughly and works hard to find a solution for it. Besides her studies, she loves to draw, read books, and even do household work. She has an interest in travelling in the future to various places and learning new things. She feels that she can adjust with family, friends, and new people very easily. This mental and emotional flexibility is a key part of her resilient nature and how she has been able to cope with all of the challenges at such a young age.
The effects of COVID in schools
The Coronavirus pandemic has made a serious impact in school children in Nepal as it has throughout the world. The government in Nepal took strict measures by locking down the country, and schools have remained closed for a long time. In effect, another year of education is in danger of being cancelled. Online classes or remote education is the only option for schooling, but in a place like Nepal that has been limited to very few schools in urban areas. Most of the schools in the rural areas have no access or the necessary hardware, and the government has not been able to do much to address this effectively.
Sadly, only a few schools in our area have been able to provide online classes on a limited basis, and they are mostly private schools. Furthermore, only one public school in our area, Setidevi School, which is Ranjana’s school, has been able to offer online classes. This has only been possible because of the extraordinary efforts of the Headmaster, Mr. Ram Kumar Basnet. Our foundation provided laptops for a few of the students in the 10th and 11th grade and Ranjana was one of those to receive it, and that has made it possible for her to join online classes. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all students, and this is something that our foundation is looking to help address.
Rukmini Foundation has supported me since 5th grade, and I’m in 10th grade now. Without this support I would not have been able to continue my education. I am even happier now since I was able to get access to a laptop this year which has helped me to attend online classes and learn new things.
A Ray of Hope
This is a story of a girl who has experienced events of historic magnitude. Through several tragedies for her family, she has always stayed strong. From having to witness the devastation brought by the earthquake and now dealing with a pandemic of the century that is affecting her education and every other aspect of her life. These are not experiences that children should have to go through, but we are amazed to see how resilient she has been despite all those obstacles.
Recently she completed 10th grade and is awaiting results to determine what she will do next. She is still dreaming big of using her education to get a job that leads to her financial independence. She wants to be able to help her entire family: parents, younger sister and grandmother as well as help others in the community in need. With her firm determination and hard work, we know that she can be anything she wants to be. The shy girl with a traumatic childhood has shown extreme courage and is now looking forward to a better life for herself and her family. She is not even letting the pandemic stop her from getting an education. She is not only a ray of hope for her family, but also to younger sisters and to the entire community. The entire Rukmini Foundation team is proud to have someone as inspirational as Ranjana as a part of our family, and we hope to provide her with the support she needs to fulfil her dreams.
Ranjana has been one of the best at making use of the laptops we provided. For someone who was at first fearful of even touching or opening a laptop, she can now do a lot of things on the computer by herself. She is regularly taking online and offline training and is now able to use the computer for her studies as well as to do general research.