PICS: CHONG ZI LIANG
Twenty-year-old Ishrat Prabin (above) leads a group of pre-schoolers in a nursery rhyme. She grew up reciting the alphabet in this very room ten years ago and has now herself become a teacher.
School teacher Ram Chandra Poudel grew increasingly alarmed 15 years ago by the number of children who were dropping out of school because their families couldn't afford their education.
As someone who had grown up in poverty and worked as a porter and domestic, Poudel tried ways to help the children but the inflexible government school system frustrated him. So, in 1995, he left his teaching job and with a group of friends set up a program to help drop-outs get back to school.
Today, Poudel's Children Nepal helps support 360 children's education by empowering their families with skills training. The only condition: the families must provide their children with food and time to go to school instead of work.
"This is so families take ownership of their children's well-being," explains Poudel, "we can't spoon feed them." Families get loans to start income-generation so the children don't have to be sent to work. Next, CN finds an appropriate government school for the child to attend and the school too must give incentives like free admission or subsidised books. That way, the organisation is just one of the three pillars supporting the children.
Sita Nepali (above) works briskly on a sewing machine, making a doll. The stuffed animals are sold in free trade markets. With the income, Sita raises her nine-year-old daughter and when her son is old enough, he will go to school too with CN's help.
OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN: It's not just children who benefit at Children Nepal. Mothers, like Sita Nepali (right), are taught skills and produce handicrafts that are sold in the fair trade market.
"I'm happy for the support for my daughter and the skills I've learnt here," says Sita, "I couldn't afford to send her to school without CN."
The organisation also provides tuition for children who are struggling with their homework or exams. Ishrat Prabin was only nine years old when she learnt the English alphabet and other nursery rhymes in the teaching centre at CN. Eleven years later, she leads the children in their ABCs at the very same centre she grew up in.
"In this room, I made my decision to become a teacher so naturally I'm a social worker here now," says 20-year-old Ishrat. During the war, Children Nepal became part of a unique peace education effort by a Japanese group which teaches conflict management, non-violent communication skills and peace-building training.
"When we started this 10 years ago, the conflict was raging and young Nepalis were confused by the failure of development and the violence in society," says peace educationist, Yoji Kamata, who says he has noticed a marked change in behaviour of the children, who are less aggressive.
Outside support has also helped provide CN with computers and teaching aids government schools can only dream about. Says Paudel: "We realised how important computer skills were becoming
and decided we had to provide them with the resources their schools could not."
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