I would not have been able to complete my high school if it hadn’t been for this school
Pics : Gopen Rai
Ostracised by her in-laws for giving birth to three daughters, Sonam Gyalmo (photo below) left her house in Dolakha and came to Kathmandu three years ago. She was just 23, alone and looking after three girls.
“I mustered the courage to leave my husband and in-laws but I didn’t have any income to survive in Kathmandu, and wasn't educated,” said Gyalmo. She had just passed her school exams when she married at 16, having her first baby a year later, and had to leave school. She gave birth to a third child to fulfil the family’s desire for a boy.
After her husband left for Saudi Arabia and didn’t return, Gyalmo was tormented by her in-laws and left them. Destitute and abandoned, she arrived in Kathmandu with a dream of educating herself and her children.
That's when she came across Niten Memorial Higher Secondary School (NIMS) in Tokha. More than a school, it is also a home for 410 children without families and survivors of disasters and trafficking. Gyalmo completed her own studies there, and now her own children are also enrolled at NIMS.
“I can’t imagine what would have happened if not for this school,” she says.
Established in 1995 as a school for street children, 340 students have graduated from NIMS since then. Apart from classes, the institution also has vocational education so students have skills when they pass out.
NIMS was started by Nicole Wick Thakuri, who comes from a privileged Swiss family. “As a child I didn’t understand why all children did not have the same right to education,” she says. This feeling deepened when she saw street children in Thamel, and led her to establish NIMS.
Sapana Tamang is another NIMS alum. Her mother died when she was a baby, and her father remarried and abandoned her.
Tamang was taken to NIMS, where she was raised and educated. After finishing secondary school, NIMS helped her find sponsors to do an MBBS in Bangladesh. At 27, Tamang today is a pediatrician at International Friendship Children’s Hospital and runs a medical clinic at NIMS itself.
“I want to give back to the school that gave me a new life," says Tamang. "Forget about becoming a doctor, I would not have been able to complete my high school if it hadn’t been for this school.”
One former NIMS student, Kamala, got pregnant after she was raped by her stepfather at 16. Shunned by family and society, she was taken in by NIMS and gave birth to a baby boy. Kamala completed her higher secondary level, and today she works in a cold store and is studying for a Bachelor degree at a private college.
Now that NIMS has grown from its initial few street children, Nicole Wick Thakuri feels she has larger responsibilities. She has given up her Swiss nationality to remain in Nepal and focus on raising money to take care of more needy children.
Some names have been changed.
The Rs 1 School, Devaki Bista
Helping Migrants Make the Grade, Shreejana Shrestha
Lessons still to be learnt, Sonia Awale