Down a dusty back alley in Basundhara, past the spark filled car yard and those scrawny chickens that stomp about, you’ll find a lane winding left and a door of corrugated iron. Open it. This is EDUC Nepal (Education and Development for the Underprivileged Children of Nepal), the brainchild of Keshari and Bishnu Kumar Ghale and their sister Bina. Since its inception, five former EDUC students have gone to college.
Ten years ago Keshari, a teacher of thirty years, noticed an alarming amount of street children who weren’t attending school. “After the Mao problem, a lot of people ran away from their villages, and their children onto the streets”, she recalls. Children who weren’t at school could be found labouring, undernourished and on the streets, some were even locked up by their parents.
Bishnu and Keshari walked from door to door asking parents in the district about their children’s education. Most parents said they couldn’t afford schooling costs or didn’t think it was important, so they kept their children at home. Keshari turned to her brother Bishnu and asked, “Why don’t we start an organization where we can take care of them?” So they decided to do just that.
Initially EDUC operated as an after school program and ran each day for two hours, catering for the educational and emotional needs of impoverished children. After six months, Keshari and Bishnu received a small donation from ETC (Educate the Children) allowing them to acquire one room to teach in.
In 2005, thanks to funding from a Dutch volunteer, EDUC transitioned to a day program. To find children to be part of the school, Bishnu and Keshari once again walked door to door talking with parents about the benefit of education and meeting children from the slums. They started the day program with one class for children of all ages.
Today EDUC is a vibrant place to learn and grow. It is filled with laughter, ginger tea, chalk dust and multiple posters of Sai Baba and his fuzzy afro. One of the classroom walls even showcases a colourful mural by Volunteer Nepal American volunteer, Anna.
There are now fifty six students enrolled at EDUC, forming four classes and a nursery program. Children are fed lunch and are provided with clean uniforms. There are five teachers, each on a minimal salary, who devote their time to these beautiful children.
The greatest challenge the school faces is a lack of funding, as rent prices continue to increase and class numbers grow. There are currently no donors and the school is financially driven by the generosity of Bishnu’s family and friends.
When I ask about their dreams for the school, Keshari laughs and clasps her hands, “we have big, big dreams”. They would love to one day have their own land and a community school, and help their students for longer. Funding would set some of these ideas in motion, and help the school reach out even further to help more children who deserve a positive education.
EDUC is one of the most popular placements for Volunteer Nepal volunteers, as it offers individuals from eclectic backgrounds the opportunity to teach and encourage groups of bright eyed kids. For me, volunteering at EDUC has been a great privilege; to spend time teaching these incredible students, but also to listen to Keshari and Bishnu’s story and play a small part in it too.
For more information about EDUC Nepal, please visit their website: http://www.educ-nepal.org/ or like their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EDUC.Nepal.
Words and Photography by Emma McDonald.