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The school under the bridge


GOPAL GARTAULA in MORANG


PICS: GOPAL GADTAULA
Difficult lessons: Students gather for classes under a temporary shed

Bimala Kattel teaches her students at Janata Primary School in Keraun here in the eastern plains of Nepal to use the latrine and wash their hands with soap or ash during health science classes. But when nature calls, both students and teachers rush to the nearby forest because the school has no toilet.

Enclosed by the Chisang River on one side and a dense sal forest on the other, Janata Primary had no classrooms either for the first two years of its existence. Students would bring straw mattresses from home and gather under a bridge over the East-West Highway for class. Today, the school has a two-room building which houses the office and a combined classroom for Grades 4-5. But since there is not enough space, students from nursery till Grade 3 still attend classes under the bridge.

The school was started 15 years ago by squatters on the eastern banks of the Chisang who make a living sifting sand and breaking stones. The nearest school was five km away, so none of the children went to school, helping their parents crush stones instead.

"We didn't want our children to become like us, crushing stones all our lives," recalls Lok Bahadur Adhikari, "we started the school hoping that if our children learn to read and write they will be able to find better jobs."

They hired Yamnath Kattel (pic, below), a SLC graduate farmer from a neighbouring village to teach the children. None of the families had space to accommodate 30 children, so the classes were held under the bridge.

Yamnath Kattel conducts classes for students from nursery to Grade 3 under a bridge over the East-West Highway.
Collecting Rs 500 each month to pay Yamnath's salary from parents who were living hand-to-mouth was also a huge struggle. "It was very hard for us to pay, but we managed, even if it meant skipping a meal," recalls local leader Chabilal Adhikary.

The trouble didn't end there. School administrators had to endure six years of bureaucratic red tape before the District Education Committee finally approved the licence for Grade 1 in 2005.

Soon after the school was registered, a group of Korean workers who were visiting Nepal donated Rs 150,000 for the construction of classrooms. Households got together to contribute two truckloads of stones. A management committee headed by Chabilal oversaw the construction. By the time the two-room building was completed, there was no money left to build a toilet or classrooms for nursery till Grade 3.

The squatter residents are happy to see their children reciting ABC even if it is under the bridge. The school struggles to support its 165 students and five teachers, but is trying to find new ways to pay for its upkeep.

"We used to have a farm nearby, but the flood in 1995 took everything away and we were homeless overnight. I came here and started working as a stone crusher. My family has contributed Rs 500, one truck sand and pebbles to the school. I don't want my daughter to follow in my footsteps. I can't read or write, but I want Ranjana to be highly educated. Every morning I go out to work with my hammer, while Ranjana goes to school carrying her books. This makes me very happy."

Ambika Nepali, Parent

"I have been teaching at Janata Primary School for the last five years. Teaching is not just a profession, it's my passion. I like teaching here. I feel terrible whenever I have to miss classes due to illness or emergency. The parents started this school because they wanted their children to have a future. I want to help them achieve that."

Dhan Laxmi Rai, Teacher



1. Gobin Sharma
is there anyway we can get contact details or any further information of school management, I would like to make a donation for the school through our Charity foundation in Sydney. 

thanks 


2. Shaligram Bhattarai
One of the most wonderful and inspiring articles ever published! Depiction of reality, the very experience of the individuals who fight with the earth to survive, and also for an ultimate satisfaction!!  

3. Nepali Times

Dear Gobin Sharma:  Thank you for your interest. You could make your contribution via our charity partners, Help Nepal Nework (HENN) and specifically earmark it for the Janata Primary School in Morang. For more information, please visit:

http://www.helpnepal.net/

Nepali Times



4. Khusbu R
This is a truly heart-touching story. Hats off to the community who despite immense hardships started a school out of their own meager resources and are making sure their children are literate so that they get a better shot at life.  If only the state provided some support to devoted teachers like Dhana Laxmi Rai, and if some NGO in Kathmandu offered to construct permanent buildings, these children would have a realistic chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty and moving up on the economic ladder. I hope this story helps publicise Janata Primary and they get much needed financial assistance and resources.    

5. tejeendra bhattarai
fastinnerhtml!

LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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