Helping girls access school in Nepal
Ten year-old Prinsi was born in extreme poverty. As a girl from the Dalit (‘untouchable’) caste living without her parents in her grandmother’s care, she was at serious risk of dropping out of school. She goes to one of Nepal’s government schools which are attended by the most marginalised children, often from the ‘Dalit’ caste, whose parents can’t afford fees. Since VSO education volunteer Gareth George began sharing skills with teachers at Prinsi’s school, her school attendance has dramatically increased. Today she‘s much more active in the classroom, and her chances of better future are far greater.
A spectrum of challenges
Though she tried hard to learn in the classroom, there are a lot of things in Prinsi’s life that are not in her favour. Abandoned by her father and the daughter of a mother forced to work abroad to earn money, ten year-old Prinsi lives with her grandmother on the outskirts of the dusty town of Surkhet in extreme poverty.
“She was barely coming five to six days a month,” said her school teacher Bishnu Maya who describes Prinsi as a girl who normally comes to school in dirty clothes, hungry and without books and pencils.
Like many other Dalit (‘untouchable’) children living in Nepal, circumstances were forcing her to become a weak student and lose interest in her studies. Even worse, she feared school was a dangerous place for her to be, “she was scared she might be trafficked,’ adds her teacher.
She was scared she might be trafficked
Problems faced by Dalit children
In Nepal forty seven percent of Dalits or ‘untouchables’ live below the poverty line and school dropout rates are high amongst Dalit children. VSO teaching and education volunteers in Nepal are placed at government schools across the country to ensure the most marginalised (often girls of a low status caste) receive an education that can help lift them out of the cycle of poverty they are locked in.
Prinsi’s head teacher Mahendra says her problems are typical of many other pupils whose parents are more concerned with their next meal instead of encouraging their children to go to school every day. He encounters parents who suffer from alcohol problems and often don’t appreciate the value of a good education, which means teachers at government schools have to work even harder to keep pupils engaged in the classroom.
Keeping children in the classroom
Prinsi’s school is one of six government-run schools in the town of Surkhet that VSO education volunteer Gareth George visits weekly.
Over two years, Gareth has built relationships with head teachers and teachers to encourage the use of lesson plans, ‘low cost, no cost’ teaching resources and interactive learning techniques to engage children more effectively in the classroom.
Gareth has also helped teachers at Prinsi’s school transform empty stone classroom walls into lively and fun learning environments, and encouraged teachers to use interactive teaching methods that stimulate the minds of their pupils.
Since Gareth began work to brighten up classroom walls and activity, Prinsi has started attending her school more regularly. In fact, nowadays – she barely misses a day, “she does struggle to concentrate because she is hungry but still she comes regularly,” remarks her teacher Bishnu.