Our mission in Nepal
We are now up and running with the establishment of UWS Nepal in the Eastern Nepal region! Since July 2015, we have taken our first steps with UWS Nepal with a pilot project of five or six schools that we are aiming to open by early 2016.
Surya Karki is leading the project and team development. Surya was born in Nepal, educated in Venezuela and USA, and is a co-founder of Maya Nepal, a network of rural schools providing free education. This gives him the perfect background to establish our new UWS venture. We aim to open UWS Nepal Schools in January 2016 and refine the UWS Community School model in Nepal.
This pilot programme in Nepal is in the Eastern district of Sankhuwasabha. The first projects, Chirate and Mude, will begin from August and September 2015 respectively. Subsequently Gufa, Mamling and Gurase will begin in November and December.
The areas where we will be based are extremely remote, with poor quality 4 x 4 tracks providing the only access to villages. The six first communities we work with are all in a 10 km radius of our base in Mude. Despite being so close geographically it takes 6 hours to travel between the furthest villages.
Educational opportunity in these villages and communities is extremely basic or non-existent. Although school buildings do often exist, they are typically built by the community, and are extremely poorly resourced, often in very basic condition and rarely fit for purpose. Very few children in the region are receiving a full course of primary education.
Educational resources are generally poor, sometimes non-existent. Based on our research, less than 10% of the students reach grade 10. Economically the region is generally very poor, with an average adult annual income of approximately USD $400-600.
The key challenge UWS Nepal has had to address came in the wake of the second devastating earthquake in May, whose epicentre was in Sankhuwashabha, the region we are working. Nepal is one of the most earthquake prone areas in the world, lying as a meeting point between two tectonic plates. With major damage to at least 180 classrooms in government schools across the district, our support for the region became even more important.
The government requires by law that UWS build earthquake resistant schools approved by an engineer or architect. Building materials are also more expensive so that they can withstand earthquake shocks. These challenges are therefore unique to UWS schools in Nepal, but once completed, an earthquake resistant, child-friendly building design will be produced. Each school will have at least three classrooms, and a library, open learning space and recreational area. Children will have access to a safe, high quality, positive schooling environment.
Despite these obstacles, UWS remains determined. By the end of 2016, we will have enrolled 3,600 children across 16 schools in Eastern Nepal.
On the shoulders of the southern Himalayas, Nepal is land-locked between China (including the Tibet Autonomous Region) and India. Nepal has three geographic regions providing the greatest altitude variation on earth; the mountainous Himalayan belt (including 8 of the 10 highest mountain peaks in the world), the hills region and the plains region. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and its largely agricultural economy is dependent on the prompt arrival of the July to October monsoon. The rest of the year is dry, sunny and mild, except in the Himalayas, where valley temperatures in winter average -10°C.
Conflict and Context
Nepal has fairly recently emerged from a 10-year civil war and is still in the process of taking forward the peace agreement signed in 2006. Conflict in Nepal was fuelled by high levels of poverty, inequality and exclusion: Nepal suffers chronic deep-seated poverty entrenched by a complex set of interrelated factors including: gender; caste; ethnicity; age; language; and geography. With over half the population surviving on less than $1.25 a day, Nepal is ranked 16th poorest country in the world in 2010 – a ranking which has changed little in recent years.
Social Welfare and Education
The internal conflict has proved a major obstacle to development. The economy is dominated by agriculture and remittances from Nepalis working overseas, each of which account for around a third of GDP. Remittances bring in more foreign exchange than exports. Tourism accounts for around 7% of GDP. The Country remains extremely vulnerable to economic, health, social and climatic shocks. Moreover, Nepal’s literacy rate is among the lowest in the world, despite over 80 per cent of boys attending some schooling. Only a minority of girls attend school.