Several students of the electricity school in Namobuddha, Nepal.
A REMOTE SCHOOL TO BE AT THE HEART OF THE NEED
Text by Thomas Deflandre
Here we are, Nepal! So excited to finally visit this amazing country famously known for having the highest mountains in the world. We’ve dreamed about that day since we decided to include Nepal in our trip and especially when we heard from Signify Foundation that they have a pilot project with BRAC in the Katmandu region.
Today this is exactly what I want to share with you, the amazing experience we had with BRAC. We first met Khemraj Upadhyaya and his team in Katmandu to introduce ourselves, discuss about the project and organize the visit. It was really a nice moment, we had the feeling to meet people we know already, friends.
BRAC Nepal is actively involved in 2 initiatives. The first one which is to help people from slums and the second one, sponsored by Signify Foundation, to empower women in isolated villages by providing an electrician formation.
Walking in Katmandu’s slums
We arrived in a slum along the river not so far from the center of Katmandu.
There are 700 houses hosting each at least 5 persons. Most of the inhabitants came from the countryside to the city with the ambition to find a job and get a better life. Unfortunately, getting a sustainable job isn’t an easy task if you have no qualifications.
Slums in Katmandu
That’s why BRAC is working in those slums to bring alternatives, they peer learner and master to give education and bring a better future.
The principle is quite simple, the learner will be taught by his master during 3 months on the job. The financial part is covered by the NGO so the master get a free extra labor and the trainee get the desired qualification. A perfect win-win process.
We walked into the slum and one thing we noticed is that even if those persons live in precarious conditions they are all very welcoming and we could easily get some interviews.
We first met Renu Shrestha, 27 years old.
She is master of the ELA (Empowerment of Livelihoods of Adolescent girls).
Every week she meets for 2 hours in the back of her house, in an improvised classroom, 15 girls from the slum to read books and discuss a lot of topics (menstruation, mariage prevention, education,…).
She likes to be a mentor and to provide those meetings. It was not really difficult to kickoff the project since she’s from the community. However, she would like to have more women joining the club but most of them are too busy.
Then we met 2 persons following the on-the-job cursus. One boy is learning how to fix motorcycle and with the amount of motorbikes in Katmandu is convinced he now has a sustainable job.
The second is a woman, she always wanted to open her own jewelry but she didn’t have entrepreneur skills. Now she’s teaming up with a grocery store which gave her shelves to expose her creations. She’s learned a lot, especially about accounting.
Remote school in Namobuddha
On the second day we went to Namobuddha at 3 hours from Katmandu through bumpy roads. So bumpy that Laura had a headache when we arrived.
Namobuddha is also famous for its monastery, at the top of a hill with a panoramic view on the Himalayan mountains and where you can meet the novice (young boys) learning to become monk.
In this village agriculture is the main source of living and it’s so isolated that people can’t afford to go to university or high school. Therefore their destiny is to be farmer.
Signify foundation and BRAC came with the idea to create a remote school giving a 3 months formation to become electrician.
Namobuddha is the first village, the pilot, and after this village the school will do the same exercise in another isolated village.
We were lucky to visit the school and meet the 17 girls few weeks before their exams.
The cursus is one month of theory and then two months of practice.
The teacher, Mr Tika Ram Bhatta has 16 years of experience but it’s the first time he teaches to women. “There is no big difference except they are silent and focus”, he admits.
He’s really confident about their future especially thanks to the on-the-job training.
Since it’s a pilot, I was also interested to hear from the teacher what could help to make the formation even better. Having one electric board for every student will help but surprisingly he also suggested to get some cheap products. The reason is that when those girls will work outside they’ll mostly work with cheap products than high end ones.
There are few criteria to access the school: the girl must have between 18 and 22 years old, have no other skills (to give a change to everyone) and they must pass an interview to evaluate their motivation.
At the end they will all receive a starter kit to allow them to start and sale their own business.
Interview of 2 students
Chitrakumari Shrestha, 22 years old.
She is married and has 2 children of 2 and 5 years old.
She didn’t know anything about electricity and she was even scared about electric chock. Now she is confident and even says “this is not rocket science”.
When the social mobilizer came to her village explaining the program she saw a door to a new life. Her family welcomed the idea positively as long as she manages to keep a balance with her current obligations.
Now, only few months later, thanks to the on-the-job training she already got a full time job offer.
Ramita Tamang, 18 years old.
She still lives with her family and is the youngest of her 2 sisters and 1 brother.
She stopped school at grade 10th because she didn’t like it. However, with this training she sees an opportunity to become independent and she also likes learning as a group of 2,3 girls.
She obviously wants to become electrician but first she’d rather join a team since she doesn’t feel ready to electrify a whole house alone yet.
Like Chitrakumari she was afraid by electricity and she didn’t dare changing a bulb. Now, she’s proud of her knowledge and likes to show off by changing fuses in friend’s houses.
Here again we felt that eager to learn we experienced with Don Bosco. The girls were happy to share the wirings they made on their boards but they were even more excited to show real projects they have made in the village.
A tour in the village
Without hesitation, even if the sun was burning outside, we walked on the hills to visit some houses where group of girls have done the home wirings together. They basically approached house owners to offer their skills to wire the house from scratch. Amazing, isn’t it?
They were really proud to share their work with us. I don’t remember how many houses we visited but we went from one to another where sometimes the owner was also there to testify on the quality of their job.
We really loved that moment, we could have stayed forever at Namobhudda. What the team is doing is just exceptional. I truly believe in this remote school concept, it brings alternatives to girls in isolated villages.