Guest blogger Prem Raj Dhungel is the Vice-Chairperson of Premsagar Foundation Nepal, where TPRF established the second Food for People Center in the village of Tasarpu. Prem Raj Dhugal’s report updates us on how conditions have changed in the village since the center opened in 2009.
Looking at the face of your small child or grandchild, can you imagine that he or she suddenly has to stop going to school and never go back because there is not enough food to eat at home? Or the child has to work instead of going to school, doing things like cleaning utensils and offices, carrying goods, or digging fields in order to earn hardly a couple of servings of bread? It is frightening for a parent to even imagine a situation where their beloved child is deprived of a basic education because of the lack of a more basic need—food.
This was the reality for the children in the mountainous village of Tasarpu in the Dhading district of Nepal. Since the opening of the Food for People facility there, the situation has changed greatly.
Children from four schools come from their homes to the facility toting school bags and books. They wash their hands and legs, walk up the steps to the dining hall gate, take dishes of hot food, and enjoy the delicious meal while sitting in the clean dining hall. These moments are wonderful to watch—the children eating the food with smiling faces. While eating, they broaden their knowledge watching TV programs like National Geographic and Animal Planet on a large LCD screen. The children are not the only beneficiaries—some elderly people also enjoy the food and educational TV programs.
The children from the primary school of Thakkam village, which is on another hill, walk for about one and a half hours to reach the FFP facility for food and then walk another hour to go to school. Some children are from Pokharichaur village, which is on the top of a hill about 600 meters above the FFP facility. Each day they walk down the steep trail for half an hour (it took an hour for me!), eat at FFP, and then walk further downhill for about 45 minutes to reach the Mahakali Secondary School.
This has been the daily routine for children in this area for the last twenty-one months, and the impact is amazing. The children get to school on time and are coming more regularly. Attendance has gone up from 40% to 90%; dropout rates have come down from 70% to 5%; school enrollment has gone up, and performance (both mental and physical) of the children has improved.
“We feel very glad and enjoy teaching when we see classrooms full of students now,” said Bishnu Gautam, the headmaster of Adarsha Lower Secondary School. “After the start of FFP, children who dropped out of school four to five years ago have come back, rejoining the same class level. For example, Ms. Sunita Waiba was readmitted to the school and joined class three students (age 18). Such cases are gradually increasing.”
After the FFP facility opened, the school’s management and guardians felt the need to upgrade the school to the secondary level. The students have already started grade 8 classes. Beforehand, the school only went up to grade 7. We are now requesting help to pay the salary of additional teachers needed—a good problem to have!
(To be continued…)