NEPAL SCHOOL PROJECTS

www.nepalschoolprojects.ca

Nepal School Projects (NSP) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) located in Ontario, Canada, founded in 1974, and run entirely by volunteers. NSP is eligible to apply for matching contributions of public funds from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in support of approved development activities in Nepal.

NSP Target Region
Miller in mahabharatAll development activities undertaken by NSP during the past four decades focused on the hill regions of Kabhre Palanchok district in eastern Nepal which has a population of approximately 350,000 made up of eight very diverse ethnic communities. The Tibeto-Burman speaking Tamangs represent about fifty percent of Kabhre district’s population.

Initially, development aid focused on the central Timal region but, in 1985, shifted to the southern Mahabharat region, isolated from the rest of the district by the high Mahabharat ridge. Topographically, the southern Mahabharat is a remote mountain region with steep hillsides, often reaching very high altitude (3,000 metres or 10,000 feet) and deep narrow valleys. The population suffers from poverty, lack of safe water and health care facilities, a lack of income generating opportunities, difficult terrain, poor communication and a great distance from a motorable road and urban centres. The subsistence farming on low productivity land barely meets their food needs and severe food shortages result when there is a natural disaster like monsoon flooding.

Projects supported by NSP

All NSP supported development projects originate within the recipient communities. The villagers do all project planning and actively participate in project implementation. The benefiting villagers also make a substantial in-kind contribution toward their project, both in voluntary labour and in locally available materials. The villagers’ contribution, plus the adoption of cost saving technologies result in highly cost effective projects.

Furthermore, all projects made possible with NSP assistance must be self-sustainable following their completion. For instance, although NSP provides technical and material assistance with primary school and health post construction, NSP does not operate or staff such facilities. On their completion, they will become part of the Nepalese educational or health care system with government appointed and paid personnel. The buildings are also constructed in such a way that they are virtually maintenance free. Similarly with drinking water systems, the Village Project Committees are asked to levy a small monthly user fee from every household, so that the accumulated funds can be applied toward the purchase of replacement parts or repairs.

Primary school construction

Villagers helping to build a new school
Villagers helping to build a new school

In the remote regions of the country most of the teen and adult population still cannot read and write, mainly due to the absence of schools in remote rural regions. Any community desiring education for their children must construct and maintain suitable premises with their own resources. In return, the government will provide teachers and pay their salaries. NSP has provided technical expertise and material aid with primary school construction to the poorest villages of Kabhre Palanchok district, thus enabling very poor children to have an access to basic education up to grade five.

Training for gainful employment

Nepal lacks any broad-scale vocational training facilities for young people. Since all NSP projects offer skill training opportunity for young people, NSP established its own hands-on vocational training program in a variety of skills for young adults. All skilled tradesmen and foremen working on NSP supported projects received their training through NSP, and the high standard of workmanship reflected in all projects is entirely due to their high level of achievement.

Safe drinking water projects

Applications for assistance with drinking water systems far outnumbered those for school construction even in the first year of operation. Thus, gravity-fed drinking water systems to the Mahabharat hill villages currently represent the main development activity. The lack of water within the community also puts an extra burden on the village women who, by local tradition, are the main water carriers. Furthermore, water taken out of a ground well, where available, is usually polluted. Clean water means better health.

Sanitation and biogas

Since 1995 sanitation has been an essential component of water systems and, under ideal weather conditions (which rarely prevail!), it is possible to construct 425 latrines per year at an average cost of £110. These latrines can be fitted with biogas plants and cooking stoves as a substitute for cooking with firewood. This not only saves trees but also reduces indoor air pollution and the incidence of bronchitis and pneumonia. The cost of installing a stove is about £170 but it is also possible to apply for a grant from the Nepalese government which would reduce this to £100.

Assistance with wire bridge construction

All rivers within the region can be forded during the dry season, but crossing a river becomes impossible during the monsoon season. Suspension bridges are very costly and beyond the scope of NSP aid. A local entrepreneur designed a low cost alternative to a suspension bridge – a wire suspended carriage moved across a river by pulling a cable can transport two adult persons or a load equivalent to 300 kilograms at a tiny fraction of suspension bridge cost. With the villagers donating all the local materials, such as stone and sand as well as transport of all bridge components to the site, these ‘flying fox’ bridges are very cost effective.

Primary health care

The high incidence of sickness and above average mortality rate among southern Mahabharat’s population is due to the primitive way of life and a virtual absence of health care facilities within the region. NSP is supporting the government’s objective to gradually establish one health post in every VDC of country by providing assistance with the construction of health post facilities. The government will only appoint the health workers and pay their salaries. At present, there are only seven fully functioning health posts within the eleven VDCs of the region and these usually lack adequate medical supplies.

With the help of a prominent Nepalese physician, NSP has trained a number of Mahabharat villagers as primary health care workers and has provided them with donations of emergency medical supplies. These “barefoot doctors” provide an essential service to the people within their home area using the Nepalese translation of the village health care handbook “Where There Is No Doctor” by David Werner.

Emergency disaster aid

In addition to development aid, NSP has also provided emergency humanitarian assistance to the victims of natural disasters that have struck the region in the recent past, such as the 1988 earthquake and the 1993 floods and landslides, when one hundred inches of rain fell within forty eight hours causing massive landslides in the hills and major floods in the valleys as well as a loss of life. The 2015 earthquakes devastated an already fragile area.  When a natural calamity strikes, the local government is unable to provide a meaningful assistance to the victims, and the destitute families have no one to turn to for help but to their equally poor neighbours and relatives.

Projects implemented since 1974

  • 113 schools
  • 7 health posts
  • 272 village water projects
  • 3,783 household latrines (467 with biogas)
  • 290 apprenticeships
  • 8 wire bridges
  • 15 micro-hydro projects
  • 630 biogas installations
  • Rehabilitation of 79,000m of foot trails and 1,100 ropanis of land

The Everest Marathon Fund has supplied money to support all NSP’s projects.   Current work is concentrating on school and water projects. 

The new school at Nawalpur
The new school at Nawalpur

Michael Rojik, the legendary founder of NSP, died in October 2013 and it has taken a year for his supporters to reorganise the charity, a difficult task without his knowledge and contacts.  In November 2014 they decided to concentrate on water and sanitation projects but this has now been overtaken by the need to rebuild over 30 schools which were badly damaged by the 2015 earthquakes and provide temporary school accommodation for the next 2/3 years.  Tents, tarpaulins and food were distributed to some villages immediately after the quakes as it was unlikely that Kabhre would be reached by international aid as villages are isolated and not accessible by road.

We have been able to pay £7,500 towards school reconstruction.