PICS: ANKUR NEUPANE
During the war, Dailekh was in the frontline: classrooms had turned into barracks, school grounds served as helipads for gunships. Teachers and students faced constant threats of violence from state security and the rebel army.
Today one of Nepal's least literate districts is rebuilding its educational base through a unique partnership in which an elite school in Kathmandu uses part of its fees to fund the training of teachers in government schools of one of Nepal's poorest districts.
In the past three years the Rato Bangala Foundation has been training primary level teachers on innovative methods and fostering critical thinking skills in students, and has trained over 2,000 teachers in 523 government schools in the district.
Former teacher trainee Karna Bahadur Shahi is impressed with the progress so far and told Nepali Times, "Improvements are incremental, but schools in Dailekh have come a long way."
Besides training teachers, senior students from Rato Bangala School also spend a month teaching children English and other subjects ahead of the SLC exams at Janata Higher Secondary School, Janata Primary School, Deep Shishu Primary School and Sri Narayan Primary School in Dailekh.
However, the difficulties of teaching in rural Nepal became apparent within the first week of the program when teachers' unions affiliated to two political parties declared a nationwide closure of schools because their demands for benefits and salaries were not met by the government.
In addition to political instability, students in rural Dailekh are up against jarring poverty which means attendance is low and the dropout rate is high. Many families still can't send their children to schools because they are needed in the fields or have to help with household chores. Schools are forced to adjust their hours and teachers readily send students home if they have other responsibilities.
Despite setbacks, the children are eager to get to their classrooms and some hike up to two hours each day roundtrip from home to school, while teachers work with limited resources to make their learning experience more enriching.
Shanta Dixit of the Rato Bangala Foundation is hopeful that Dailekh will have a higher quality of education. "The project will continue for another two and a half years," she says, "and by that time we will have more facilities like libraries and laboratories and make Dailekh's school system stronger."
The common good, ORA KWO in DAILEKH
An ambitious public-private partnership helps spread the benefits of education for all in a remote district in Nepal