|projects & activities
Bandipur—A Focus of the South Asia Children’s Fund Activities
Since its inception the South Asia Children’s Fund has focused many of its activities in the town of Bandipur, located 130 km west of Kathmandu. The South Asia Children’s fund has benefited enormously from a close working relationship with Mr. Chij Shrestha, the Vice President and Country Director of World Education in Nepal. Mr. Shrestha was born and raised in Bandipur, and served as headmaster of Bhanu School in Bandipur at the age of 16. He is the founder and chairman of the Bandipur Social Development Committee, and serves as the Coordinator of the Education Sub-Committee.
Bandipur is situated on the ancient trade route linking India and Tibet. Although primarily a Newar town, Bandipur has a significant population of families from disadvantaged communities. Its relatively remote location, eight km off the main highway linking Kathmandu to Pokhara, resulted in Bandipur being spared the ravages of modern development in Nepal, including the proliferation of nondescript reinforced concrete buildings. Bandipur has one of the most authentic and best preserved town squares anywhere in South Asia, and its own unique architectural style. Bandipur is now making application to UNESCO for World Heritage status. Bandipur and its surrounding 15 villages have a total population of about 16,500 including 7,000 children and youth of school age. The outlying villages all have small primary schools with limited resources. Bandipur bazaar, which serves as the trade center for these nearby villages, can be reached on foot within a few hours from any of these communities.
Educational Assets and Deficiencies
There are three public schools in the main town of Bandipur:
Bhanu School’s infrastructure has suffered on account of years of neglect. Classrooms are dimly lit, poorly equipped and overcrowded. There are no panes of glass in the school’s windows, and heating is nonexistent. The school library features a few hundred dog-eared books that were donated by departing Peace Corps volunteers. Science charts are torn and stained. Teachers lead their classes armed with a piece of chalk, and a blackboard. In the three Bandipur public schools it would be difficult to find a single functioning overhead projector, calculator, or tape recorder. Even slide rules are rare. It’s not uncommon for teachers in Bandipur to break pencils into three pieces so they can be shared. The town’s electrical supply is unreliable at best. Most text books have been passed from one class of students to another, and they accordingly show their wear.
According to Peter King, a former Peace Corps volunteer who remains committed to improving public education in Bandipur, schools in Bandipur suffer from the same problems that plague public education throughout Nepal:
Among students, dropout and class repetition rates are very high. Similarly promotion rates of students are very low. Girl students suffer from these problems more than the boys do. Teachers do not find the physical environment of the school conducive to teaching. Lack of reference materials, science equipment and other instructional materials and the near absence of appropriate classroom furniture are examples of some of the deficiencies to be addressed by this proposal. Not only are instructional tools absent from the Bandipur schools, there is no facility large enough for teachers from the surrounding schools to gather for training and collaboration activities. Absence of facilities for training and interaction with teachers from other schools and with community members on a structured basis also contribute to the loss of interest and motivation on the part of teachers.
In addition to Bhanu School, Dill Primary and Kanya Middle Schools there are 25 primary schools, two middle schools and four high schools in nearby villages that require substantial upgrading of infrastructure and basic equipment. In all these schools dropout and class repetition rates are high, especially among children from disadvantaged communities. Lack of reference materials, science equipment and instructional aids for teachers, along with a scarcity of basic classroom furniture, need to be addressed in order to create a learning environment in the classroom.
Three pre and after-school Learning Centers have been established in Bandipur for the purpose of providing a stimulating and safe environment for local primary and middle school children to read, write, work with computers, do their homework, and play sports and games. Financial support has been provided by the South Asia Children’s Fund for the reconstruction of two of the Learning Centers, and the provision of new computers and teaching materials. The Leaning Centers have become very popular with the town’s children, and with their families. Most of the children attending the Learning Centers on a regular basis come from disadvantaged communities. Some are now among the top students in the classes at Dill Primary and Kanya Middle School.
The South Asia Children's Fund promotes Youth-To-Child learning strategies, believing that young people can serve as effective mentors and role models for girls and boys who don’t receive enough attention in their regular classrooms. At the Learning Centers in Bandipur local youth between the ages of 16-25 serve as the tutors for the children at the Learning Centers, assisted by highly motivated gap year students recruited by the South Asia Children’s Fund from Canada, the USA, Norway, South Korea and New Zealand. Many of the gap year students recruited by the South Asia Children’s Fund have come from leading International Baccalaureate schools, and have earned accolades from Bandipur residents for their energy, resourcefulness, and commitment to the children.
Donors are sought for upgrading and re-equipping of all three Learning Centers, including new doors, windows, shelves, desks and chairs. In addition, funds are required for art supplies, music instruments, and for basic sport and recreation equipment, suitable for both boys and girls.
Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students
While public school education through high school is tuition-free in Nepal, fees are charged to students that prevent children from disadvantaged families from attending school. Schools have no source of funds to pay for maintenance costs, repairs, or cleaning unless they levy fees on students and their families. Similarly, there is no source of funds to pay for drinking water to be carried to schools for the students, and no allowance to pay for the simple uniforms that most students are required to wear.
Funds are required for scholarships for selected children from disadvantaged families to ensure their enrollment and completion of primary school. These funds will be allocated and carefully administered by the Bandipur Social Development Committee, and will be paid to cover expenses such as school fees, school uniform costs, and school books.