|projects & activities
Construction of a Primary School in the Solukhumbu District of Nepal in Cooperation with the dZi Foundation
Sotang is simultaneously one of the most remote and most populous locations in the Solukhumbu district of Eastern Nepal. Sotang is located a two-day walk from the nearest airstrip or medical facilities, and at least one week’s walk from the nearest road. The village residents depend for their survival upon sustenance agriculture, and from revenues earned while working as porters in the distant Everest region.
Sotang was the center of the Maoist insurgency in Eastern Nepal. Maoist forces established a 700-strong training centre in a heavily fortified barracks in the center of town. Sotang was the scene of many encounters between Royal Nepal Army forces and the Maoists, and local residents were frequently subject to harassment, extortion, and torture by both Maoist rebels and government security forces alike.
The education infrastructure system in Sotang is in total disrepair. Nearly every school in the area is in need of reconstruction, with some schools being too dangerous to inhabit. All the schools lack basic sanitary facilities and running water.
Despite these challenges, the Upper Secondary School in Sotang is home to over 1,000 students from five surrounding communities. This is the only 10+2 program (the equivalent of grades 11 and 12) in the area, and many students walk up to two hours each direction to attend classes, with as many as fifty students crammed into a single classroom. Many of the former classrooms lacked adequate desks, and blackboards, and others were prohibitively dark. The former campus housed all 1,000 students in a small building, and the noise levels when classes were in session were remarkable. Despite the compromised learning environment, throughout the years of armed conflict the teaching faculty in Sotang remained committed to providing the best education within their means, and were holding two separate school sessions every day to accommodate all of the students’ needs.
In November 2006 Ben Ayers, the co-founder of the highly regarded NGO Porters’ Progress and now working with the dZi Foundation, visited Sotang to review community-based projects that he had implemented with Porters’ Progress that same year. According to Ben, the quality of the small projects that Porters’ Progress had initiated in Sotang was very high; he was ‘astounded’ by the level of local investment in all the community projects. Ben left Sotang determined to find the means to assist the local community members in their desire to revitalize the school infrastructure.
At the request of Ben Ayers and the dZi Foundation, the South Asia Children’s Fund has provided substantial funding for the construction of a new facility at the Sotang Upper Secondary School, with eight new classrooms. This facility has provided a separate campus for the lower-secondary students at the school (up to class six) and has alleviated overcrowding in the school classrooms. The new facility also frees up space for the construction of a school library, science lab, and storage space. In addition to the new school construction, the South Asia Children’s Fund has funded the construction of four new toilets at the new facility, and four additional toilets at the existing school.
Funds provided by the South Asia Children’s Fund went towards the purchase of building materials such as cement, roofing tin, nails, windows, paint, and plaster. The local community members contributed all the labour and local materials for the project.
The reconstruction of the Sotang Upper Secondary School is part of a larger community development initiative funded the dZi Foundation in Nepal. The dZi Foundation has made a commitment to reconstruct two additional primary schools in Sotang, and to provide funding for a clean drinking water initiative.