Dubai – MENA Herald: An inspiring story from Nepal, shared at the fourth Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF) by Dr. Tshering Lama, Country Director of Childreach Nepal, defines the power of education to bring transformative change to an entire community, also inspiring them to fight child trafficking and promote better healthcare.
‘Can you teach me?’ That question by two children to the volunteers of Childreach Nepal was the starting point of a remarkable journey that today sets the template for promoting rural education, especially in natural disaster-prone nations.
After the devastating earthquake in Nepal last year, the immediate priority of Childreach Nepal was to ensure that its motorbike volunteers reach as many people as possible if only to bring hope, said Dr. Tshering Lama.
“While we distributed food and relief materials, our ‘moving moment’ was the question by the two children,” said Dr. Lama. With nearly 1 million children affected by the earthquake, a significant number of them in rural communities still out of school or going to bare school structures, Childreach Nepal decided to provide them the gift of education.
Dr. Lama reached out to Japan, which has prototypes of earth-quake resistant structures, to build learning centres that were “better than the facilities that existed.” Starting with just one school, Childreach Nepal has built three schools with 20 classrooms, all in one of the worst-affected districts of Sindhupalchok. Given the situation, children have been taught five ‘survival skills’ which are crucial when it comes to education – computer training, English language studies, first aid, presentation skills and management skills.
He said that the schools also offer healthcare facilities, which is accessible for the elderly in the villages. Adult literacy classes have also commenced with the schools now serving as community development hubs that also take on the menace of child trafficking that was rampant after the disaster.
Dr. Lama said that the initiative has gained good support from various quarters. However, what remains is the enormous task of providing primary education to thousands more. Ensuring that children go to schools, he said, has a bigger social purpose: It helps address the social concerns of child marriage, trafficking and child labour.
“With education, there is 80 per cent less chance of children being vulnerable to human trafficking,” he said.
Childreach Nepal is now on course to building 100 schools that can host over 6,000 students. One school of two classrooms costs about US$20,000 with the materials used including fire-resistant cement fibreboard walls with plywood insulation. “These schools, thus, also serve as safe shelters for the community,” said Dr. Lama.
GESF is convened by the Varkey Foundation and held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
With partners including UNESCO, Harvard Graduate School of Education and Dubai Cares, GESF features intense debates on reconciling the relevance, excellence and inclusiveness of both public and private learning environments. GESF 2016 will culminate on Sunday March 13 with the live announcement of the second annual award of the US $1 million Global Teacher Prize.