I’ve been in Nepal for the past ten days with a team of staff and volunteers. We are here to visit the Sankhu-Palubari Community School (SPCS) in the rural Kathmandu Valley. The Advocates for Human Rights, the organization I work for, has supported the school since it was founded in 1999 to prevent child labor, encourage gender parity in education, and improve the lives and well-being of the most disadvantaged children in the area. The school in Palubari village is only about 40 km outside of Kathmandu, but the peaceful, green valley in which it is nestled feels worlds away. The drive out is nerve-wracking (in the terrible Kathmandu traffic), then bone-jarring (on the bumpy, rutted roads). But the sight of these bright, alert children makes it all worthwhile.
In the United States, where education is both compulsory and free, we often forget that the right to education is not meaningfully available in many parts of the world – especially for girls. The UN estimates that there were more than 67 million primary school-age and 73 million lower secondary school-age children out of school worldwide in 2009. In addition, an estimated 793 million adults lack basic literacy skills. The majority of them are women.
Most of the students’ families work in agriculture. They are farmers with little or no money to spare on school fees, uniforms and supplies. Frequently, the adults in the family are illiterate. Many of them are from marginalized groups such as the Tamang. An indigenous group with their own culture and language, the Tamang students must learn Nepali as well as English when they come to school. A pre-K program was added in 2011 to provide pre-literacy eduction to better prepare the students for school.
This week, The Advocates’ team has been conducting a site visit which includes interviewing students in grades 5 through 10 about their experiences at the school and their plans for the future. It has been a treat to interview these kids and learn more about their lives, their hopes, their dreams for the future.
- Their efforts have definitely paid off. While girls worldwide generally are less likely to access, remain in, or achieve in school, 52% of the students in K-8th grades at the school this year are girls. And a girl is at the top of the class in every single grade at SPCS.