In many of our partner schools, there is a shortage of teachers, especially enthusiastic, local teachers who have a stake in the community. Many bright children, especially girls, are sent to work abroad by their families before or immediately after completion of their School Leaving Certificate (SLC) in order to send home money. This situation has led to a lack of educated and qualified people in rural communities, further impacting on teacher shortage.
Less than 5 out of 10 students in SIndhupalchowk District continue their education after SLC and of these, only around two continue to graduate 10+2 (equivalent to British A- levels). This is strongly linked to the impossibly high cost of attendance as well as a lack of effective guidance. Students from the Helambu region are incredibly passionate about education and full of ideas and visions on how to use their education to improve their local communities. They show immense dedication in the face of adverse circumstances. In order to improve the quality of education and nurture the ambitions of children in rural communities in areas such as Helambu, it is vital that educated local people return to their communities as role models and entrepreneurs for social and economic change.
While education at government schools is free of charge up to the level of the School Leaving Certificate (SLC), most educational institutions for higher studies post SLC are private, expensive and based in Kathmandu, with limited options in the Helambu region. For anyone desiring to go on to complete their high school 10+2, one must travel to cities like Kathmandu and this reality will continue unless high schools in the Helambu region become well established and upgrade themselves in infrastructures and teaching capacity. The cost of higher education colleges in Kathmandu is beyond what most families in Helambu can afford.
The annual average income of a family in Helambu is around Rs.15,000 or £100, which is barely enough to meet daily basic requirements. Private schools in Kathmandu charge between Rs. 30,000 (£200) and Rs. 50,000 (£350) in annual tuition fees forcing many students with bright prospects to discontinue their studies despite their desire to carry on. The Scholarship Scheme for Higher Education was set up in 2010 to allow academically gifted, enthusiastic students from economically underprivileged backgrounds in the Helambu region to continue their education and pursue their goals. The Scholarship is aimed specifically at students from marginalised Hyolmo or Tamang communities, and tries to award an equal number of scholarships to both boys and girls. A condition of the scholarship is that awardees return to their home communities to volunteer for at least three months following the completion of their studies.
Since 2010, we have given scholarship opportunities to more than 50 students. Graduates of the scheme have returned to their communities as teachers, become involved in local politics, pursued further study, often in fields such as medicine and nursing, or promoted to organisations working for development, to name but a few. At present, HELP provides around 30 scholarships per year, but hopes to increase this number, as we reach out to more secondary schools in the region.‘My father was killed in a bus accident while going to India in search of work. I am proudly the first girl from my village to pass SLC in first division from my local school... I decided to go to Kuwait to earn money because my family was going through financial problems. After coming to know about this scholarship programme... I dropped the idea of going abroad and hope to continue my education here in Nepal. But, my family is very disappointed with my decision. I really do not want to go abroad because I believe there is no future there. Instead, I want to be a Doctor. It is my wish forever to serve my people and help them in their needs.’ Scholarship Awardee 2013, Ichowk village.
Reeling from the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, life for young people in Sindupalchowk has become harder in terms of continuing their education. As youth today hold the promise of rebuilding the region and even develop in the long run, investment in their further education is of paramount importance. Opportunity for higher education after 10th grade examination (School Leaving Certificate) is scarcely available in Sindupalchowk, so many must come down to Kathmandu but where they are met with unaffordable education. In consideration of this situation, we awarded 70+ scholarships this year for 43 girls and 31 boys to continue their education. Applications were received from across 29 schools from over 250+ aspirants. Each awardee receives Rs. 20,000 a year for two years programme.
At many of our partner schools, there are individual cases of talented students unable to attend school due to financial hardship. We believe everyone should have access to the opportunity of completing a basic level of education, regardless of their background. Therefore we provide additional financial support to children from underprivileged backgrounds, such as orphans or those from families who have lost the main breadwinner. The scheme also seeks to help students from geographically remote villages, who must travel outside of their home village to continue their education past a certain level. Sponsorships cover the cost of books, uniform, and where necessary school and boarding fees.