The best days of your life – school?
Lal Bahadur, the father of our host family for our stay in Deurali village, could be summed up as an honorary social worker. It was notable that during any major issue or event in the village that Lal Bahadur was in the midst of it. During the early part of our stay we had witnessed the neighbouring family observe the Hindu rituals of Shraddha – the remembrance of past ancestors. I’m sure you are wondering how this is linked into the local school? Having enquired if shraddha, was commonly observed in the village we learnt that yes it was but that Lal Bahadur had his own way of remembering his parents and grandparents. Instead of inviting a priest to his house, which costs money and also all the bits and pieces that our required, Lal Bahadur makes a denotation to the local government primary school. He believes that the school kids’ having a pen and an exercise book is a better remembrance of his ancestors. We were then invited to visit the school.
The local government primary school is over 40 years old, consisting of a library, 6 classrooms and a staff room. The windows and doors are south facing to provide light and heat to the classrooms. It is built on a piece of flat land – so there is an area in front of the buildings for the playground / grass field. This is the school that all three of Lal Bahadur’s sons attended.
The classrooms are very basic – this is the girls’ side of the room.
And this is the boys. One can easily imagine how dark and cold these classrooms must be during the winter months. What was immediately striking was the lack of resources – one expects a classroom to be plastered with posters, pictures, letters and number facts – not just painted plaster.
The next room to be ‘inspected’ was the library, which also doubled as the staff kitchen, with a small gas stove in the corner. It was good to hear that through the efforts of the local community that the room was due for refurbishment – to include fresh paint on the walls, a carpet and some small desks and chairs. As a footnote the taxi that we left in, brought the carpet and paint from Pokhara so hopefully the work has been completed.
We then went to the staff room to enjoy a cup of tea with the headmaster, a member of staff as well as Lal Bahadur, who acts as school governor in charge of fund raising. The discussion revolved around the planned improvements for the school. Later on in the week there was a meeting with a group of retired Ghurkha soldiers who operate a benevolent fund and are planning on building an additional two classrooms for the school. There is a two-tier education system in Nepal, with a massive increase in privately operated schools – all self-funded and reliant on fee paying pupils. The need for private schools is evident from the quality of local government run schools. It was quite sobering to find out that there are 10 government primary schools in the area but this was the best.
After tea and the chat was the customary school photograph.