Back in 2000, the United Nations created the Millennium Development Goals aimed at slashing poverty, hunger, disease, maternal and child deaths and other ills by a 2015 deadline. Poverty is always closely linked to education so the specific goal for “universal education” is to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. Coming from the U.S., it is difficult to picture the face of this poverty. However, after my trip to Nepal a few months ago, those children have names.
Sher Bahadur Bharam falls in the middle of two brothers and two sisters. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Bibas Pariyar is eight and dreams of someday becoming a pilot. Sandip Bishwokarma is one of eight members in his family and at seven years old, says his favorite free time activity is to sing and dance with his friends. And finally, Bishnu Surkheti, a shy ten year old whose favorite color is red, grins sheepishly when he talks of becoming a teacher.
While their names may not sound like John, Megan, or Tom, their stories sound remarkably similar to those you might hear on a playground in the U.S. They are just kids being kids, dreaming of growing up to be doctors, pilots, and teachers. But unlike most children in the U.S., they are not always afforded the luxury of a path to their dream.
In Nepal, one in five primary school kids does not go to school. Less than half of those eligible go on to attend secondary school. Demographic studies have shown that enrollment in school is closely linked to where students live and their household wealth. In short, kids from poor, rural areas don’t go to school because of the lack of educational resources in more remote villages. They don’t have a choice.
In November, I visited the Gorkha district of Nepal. I was taken by a friend of friend who grew up there and who I later came to realize was asking for help. He took me to his primary school, the foundation of his educational journey. Now that he’s a successful adult, running his own orphanage in the capital of Kathmandu, he understands the value of an education at his core.
That day, when we arrived at the school, none of us said much. The visual was far more powerful than any words. A school that was literally collapsing, the support walls bent in a semi-circle. Broken toilets that have been locked shut for years. There were children playing in dirty and tattered clothes. And yet, behind the initial apprehension towards a stranger, a smile crept out of every child’s mouth.
Achyut broke the silence when we left the school by simply saying, “It’s not safe to teach children there”.
That day changed me.
On May 17th a team of Americans will work side by side Nepali villagers including Achyut, Sher, Bibas, Sandip and Bishnu to tear down the collapsing school. We’ll build a new environmentally friendly campus equipped with a water supply and toilets. But best of all, we’ll do it together.
Do you want to join us?