Read on to find out what Jitna, our Solukhumbu Program Coordinator, discovers in his recent trip to Lidhunga School which prompted this heartfelt story.
I had reached Lidhunga Primary School as part of my monitoring visit. In the past, it was easy to enter the school as it was open on all sides. But this time I encountered fence on all sides. There were two gates located to the East and West but both of them were locked. I circled the school for quite some time but didn’t find any way to enter it. I used to visit this school regularly for monitoring since we had reconstructed it in 2016. Due to various reasons, I had not visited this school for some time now. I realized that within that gap, the school had transformed itself completely. Often rural schools in Nepal do not even have proper boundary, but to find one so well fenced and gated, is a rarity. I was so amazed by all the changes I was seeing I didn’t mind just staring at it all from outside fence.
Broom grass (amliso) had been planted around the school. This would fetch some income for the school and would also help control landslide. A lot of trash cans were placed between the lower and upper building. I saw two waste pits – for degradable and non-degradable wastes. The waste from bio-degradable pit must be used as compost for the plants and flowers around the school as I saw a lot of plants and flowers. .
There were flowers blooming in pots all along the building periphery. On one side, there was an oval garden fenced with bamboo
For kids in Early Childhood (ECD) and Grade 1, there were shoe racks outside. In all the classes, there were separate racks to store mid-day meals of the children. Students were now bringing organic home-made food for their lunch. This must greatly have reduced a kid’s dependency on unhealthy processed food.
As I looked around more, I saw the national flag of Nepal and other colorful house flags fluttering pleasantly in the wind. Behind them and just beneath the roof, there were colorful posters with inspirational quotes and poems.
On the Eastern side, there was a clean toilet with water tank in the roof indicating availability of water. There were two doors with faces of men and women in them indicating separate toilets for boys and girls.
There were two taps adjacent to one of the buildings. One of the tap was a little higher while the other one was shorter – making it easily accessible for both small and big children. There were several instructional notes around the tap to encourage its proper use and cleanliness.
I mentally recorded a lot of big and small improvements since the last time I was here. I did not see a single teacher loitering outside – again an unexpected thing in rural schools. After a while, one of the teachers came out to ring the bell for next class. That is when I asked for permission to enter the school. I introduced myself and told him that I was there to monitor the school building. He then grabbed the key from the office to let me enter. Only then was I finally able to step inside this beautiful school.
I was so happy and impressed by all that I saw, I started capturing every little detail in my phone – the buildings, the flower pots, the garden, toilets everything. As I was doing that, I also enjoyed the view all around me as Lidhunga is perched on a high ridge. Along with green hills, forests, rivers I also saw schools of neighboring Rok, Susla, Namlung and Bung villages. My heart was full when I reflected that all of the earthquake safe buildings in these schools were built by dZi through partnership with local NGOs. I brought myself back to Lidhunga from this reverie. Now only observing the perimeter was not enough for me. I wanted to see how the classes were being conducted.
I started peeking inside each class from the door trying to cause as less a disturbance as I could.
All the classes were being run in child friendly manner – the students were without fear and were interacting with teachers freely. Many local materials were used to create engaging teaching materials and children had created and drawn many of these. Children were discussing lessons in groups by themselves as per the “learning by doing” mantra. The teachers were enjoying themselves too. It made me so happy to see such a fun and engaging teaching learning going on in the classes.
I now desperately wanted to know what brought along all these changes. So I decided to wait until lunch break to satisfy my curiosity as otherwise all the teachers were engaged. In the break, I met with Deputy Principal of the school, Sital Karki. When I asked him about the changes in the school, he briefed me thus,
“We realized that a school should be good in terms of both building and the quality of education. To improve this school, we worked with the parents, community, teachers, school management committee, parent teachers’ association, and child club. We received support from local government, rural municipality and other like-minded organization such as yours and REED Nepal. dZi helped us by building these strong classrooms. The local government helped us by constructing the toilet and fencing. REED Nepal provided us teaching materials, training to teachers, child club and school management committee, flower pots, trash cans etc. With support from all sides and our own effort, now we are one of the model schools in the entire area. We are free from corporeal punishment. We employ child friendly teaching learning method. We now have provision of organic healthy meal for kids. No child of school going age within our service area is left behind. There are now 73 students here – 35 girls and 38 boys. We 6 teachers are working day and night to improve our students’ present and future.”
I then put another query forward, that people could not enter the school easily. Karki said that since all that a children required during school hours was already inside the school they had no need to go outside. This made it easier to fence and secure the premises. Drinking water, toilet, sufficient playground, waste disposing places, book corners everything is inside the school. He said that the children now do not run away as they enjoy more inside the school than outside. For anybody who wants to come inside the school, they have to introduce themselves and state their objective. This way, classes are also not disturbed by random passersby. Parents have also understood this rule now and come to observe the school in a very organized manner.
My last question was whether the school building ever had to be repaired so far. Karki said that need for repair had not arisen yet and even if it did, they had repair and maintenance fund which would cover it. Their building in the past was situated at the edge of a hill and was risky. The wind blew away the roof so many times. But now it is located in a better position. It was so strong it hardly required any maintenance.
All I have to say in conclusion of my fortunate visit is that Lidhunga was already a beautiful place because of its physical beauty. But now, this place is worth visiting even more because of this model school. We can visit Lidhunga just to learn from this school alone. The students here truly enjoy coming to the school. It was evident in their smiles, their excitement and their fearless demeanor. It was clear that the school buildings constructed by Solukhumbu Development Society was being used in the best way possible. And the support of a wide array of organizations had helped this school take a leap in its education quality. I want to thank each and every one of them who made this change possible in Lidhunga. I wish this school more success in coming days.
Solukhumbu Program Coordinator