As we said in a previous post, the urban and rural dialectic is very present in Nepal, especially in education. The public schools in the Kathmandu Valley have better infrastructure: buildings with sufficient classes, technological equipment for students and teachers, libraries full of books, equipped laboratories, transportation to go to school, etc. But there is also a huge difference when we talk about management and what happens within these infrastructures: teachers in urban areas are much more prepared when it comes to teaching, either by using more modern pedagogical techniques, or by receiving (frequently) training in topics related to the importance of education and the figure of the teacher, the protection of children, or maintaining a suitable school environment for children.
But, although the aforementioned has a very important weight in the final result, education is not only the school and the teachers. There are two factors that play an equal or much more determining role: the families and the communities around the schools. Although when we talk about the most marginalized social groups in Nepal (such as the Chepang), these two groups do not have any conception of the importance of early childhood education. So, the question here must be: how do we engage these actors to improve education in rural and more remote areas of Nepal? We do not believe that there is a single correct answer to this question, especially if we want it to be sustainable in the long term. But as in any way, there is always a first step.
To the families and communities, we must add two other very important and influential actors when we talk about education: the local government and the school management committee (SMC). Both play a decisive role in facing this difficult challenge, since they have influence and decision-making power in what happens inside and outside of school. To work and intervene in a particular community, it is necessary to establish a very meaningful relationship with all these stakeholders. That is, the participation of community members, communication with teachers and the school committee, and active coordination with the local government are mandatory to achieve the planned goal and objective. Only by working together can we discuss, plan, coordinate and intervene to address the problems faced by rural education.
It is not a new formula, it is something that Shaping Young Minds Nepal, our partner in Nepal, has been doing since it was founded in 2015. With the help of local authorities and interest groups, it has developed projects related to education, sustainable development, and feminine health and hygiene in communities at risk of social exclusion (including the Chepang) in rural areas of Dhading and Ramechhap districts.
As of today, a large number of organizations are working to improve the level of education in rural areas of Nepal, but many of their efforts are met with little interest from the actors involved in the problem. This is why we must not forget that the success and failure of the project is not only determined by the budget or planning, but is also determined by the support received by the community and by the local government.