About one in five children, aged four years, is not enrolled in preschool throughout Nepal. 40% of children entering grade 1 in Nepal have had no foundational education and only three quarters of those who enter at grade 1 make it to grade 8.
Without a strong educational foundation, children are entering their school career at a severe disadvantage. When these young children are unable to succeed it becomes understood that they would be more useful in the home or with a job.
In Balkhu Slum, the home of Strong Roots Preschool, if students are not enrolled in school they are typically found on the streets, begging and scavenging for scraps of food.
Strong Roots preschool provides these students with a productive, safe, and healthy alternative: a quality, foundational education. Strong Roots NYC, a New York based non-profit, supports the efforts of Strong Roots Preschool through a student sponsorship program, various projects, and professional development for Strong Roots educators.
I was born and grew up in a rural village of eastern Terai region of Nepal. As most of the kids in the rural village, I too completed my schooling from a public school. The public school was located about one and half hour walking distance away from my village. It didn’t offer quality education and had more holidays as there was less effective monitoring system.
Usually we had morning classes as it used to get hotter in the summer. During the break time, before and after school I used to herd goats along with one of my friend, Umesh. I had to take care of my own- family’s goats while, Umesh, used to herd other people’s goats. We enjoyed a lot together; we usually used to play by riding on the back of the goat assuming them to be our own horses.
Due to this the goats never got fat so my parents and his landlords used to scold us. We used to act as if it were not our fault and tried our best convincing them saying we were feeding them well. We used to tell them that It was not ours but the goat’s mistake for not gaining weight. Umesh was from other village, and he belonged to a very poor family. He used to work as a servant and he wasn’t allowed to go to the school.
Though my family wasn’t that rich they somehow arranged and sent me off to city for my further studies. I kept studying until I got a university degree. Until this time, I had good job whereas Umesh settled back at the village with his family.
After few years, I went back to my village with some official work, and there I looked for Umesh, with whom I had silly good old childhood memories, but I came to know that he had left this place to work in someone else's house. As I wanted to meet him I went looking for him desperately.
Though I was lucky to find him there, he refused to meet me, and he didn’t talk to me like he used to. Finally, after several attempts, I got to meet him and what strikes me is how he said, “You are now a successful person, an incomparable person.”
And this is when this thought hit me, there was visibly no difference between us, but the only difference was that he didn’t get chance to get an education while I had that chance. This made me realize the value of education. From that day onwards, I thought that if any day I was to be a capable person I would make a school that would cater to poor children.
This incident is what actually motivated and inspired me to open the school. Fortunately, I met Ms. Janet Bralavo and I was able to fulfill this dream of mine and started Strong Roots for the slum children of Katmandu with her and HIO support. Now, this school is in Kathmandu; however, I want to take this school to rural villages.
There are a lot of organizations operating in the city, but that does not necessarily happen in rural areas as there is a lack of supportive organization that works in the sector of education. Further, I want to expand this school to places where children do not have access to quality education.