Dr. Krishna Aryal, Januray 2016
On behalf of Health team for Nepal, Sanjay Aryal and Dr. Krishna Aryal visited the Martyrs’ Memorial Residential Higher Secondary School in Dang on the 22nd and 23rd December, 2015. This school is one of the five schools that the Martyr Foundation Nepal has been managing since 2009. Like in the other four martyr memorial schools, free and quality education is given to the children from martyr families, i.e. children of members of the People’s Liberation Army who died, disappeared by the State or were injured during the Peoples’ War that lasted for ten years (1996-2006). In addition to the children from the martyr families, about 15 percent students are admitted from the locals among the poorest and lower cast families.
Johan Petter Andresen and Hamid had visited this school in 2012 on behalf of our organisation. At that time the school had up to eight grades. Since then, it has been upgraded to eleven grades. It will be further upgraded to grade twelve next year. Two main courses, Humanities and Management, are taught in grades eleven and twelve. There are eighteen students in grade eleven. Some of them have come from the other Martyr schools.
The school is located in the countryside, seventeen kilometres west of Ghorahi in Manpur village which is about one kilometre’s distance south from the Ghorahi-Tulsipur road. The nearest city, Tulsipur, is about six kilometres to the west. The school’s premises are today spread out in an area of eight ropani (equivalent to 4,000 m2). In the near future, the school will be leasing nearly 65 ropani (equivalent to 33,000 m2) on a fifteen-year lease from Sanskrit University.
On the first day, we were guided around the school and residential buildings by the vice principal and the computer teacher. There are two dormitories: one for girls and female staff, another for boys and male staff. The photo shows the two storey girl’s dormitory. Opposite is a three storey boy’s dormitory with an account office. The dormitories have relatively small bedrooms with bunk beds. There are seven bunk beds in each room, with four students sleeping in one bunk bed (two above and two below) in total twenty-eight students per room.
There are sixteen rooms for students and seven rooms for staff who live in the dormitories. Two female staff and six male staff live in the dormitories.
The photo shows the arrangement of the bunk beds in a room. The bed size is only a meter wide, for two students to sleep in. We observed that the rooms were very congested. There is very little space for personal belongings. Students have difficulties walking in the rooms especially in the night when the electric supply is interrupted due to “load shedding”.
We were informed that the school has 4,000 m2 of leased land which is used for vegetable farming for their own consumption. We did not have an opportunity to visit the farmed land which is located outside the school premises. The vegetable production is not sufficient; they have to buy more from local farmers. The school will be leasing 33,000 m2 land for fifteen years. This land will be used for animal farming, including cows, buffalos, pigs, goats, and agricultural farming. The land will also be used to grow vegetables such as spinach, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, rice and bean productions. We observed that this school has the potential to develop into an agricultural college in the future. Animal farming for meat and dairy products and vegetables/agricultural farming for own consumption will mean that the 450 residents will be self-sustained.
There are seventeen teachers and seven other members of the staff (cleaner, cook, gardener, etc.). In the picture, Narayan Poudel with blue jacket, furthest to the right on the third row, standing next to Krishna Aryal, is the principal of this school. He is from the local area and lives in Ghorahi, about seventeen kilometres from the school.
The salary scale is fixed by the Martyr Foundation Nepal who employs the teaching staff. The monthly salary for the staff varies based on their qualifications and the grades they teach. Rs. 17,700 (grade 1-5), Rs. 18,800 (grade 6-8), Rs. 24,400 (grade 9-10), Rs. 27,900 (grade 11-12).
We visited classrooms during our visit. Krishna acted as a teacher in a mathematics class for grade nine. There are many clever pupils. In the school leaving certificate (SLC) exam last year, twenty-one students participated and all passed: thirteen students with first division grades (60-80%) and eight students with second division grades (45-59%). The results show a very good performance in the school. Among twenty-one students, nine students went to Pokhara for +2 education in science and others chose to stay in this school.
The local pupils come to the school from their home. Children from poor families, who cannot pay school fees, are admitted in this school for free education.
Kitchen and dining
The kitchen and dining hall is located right next to the boys’ and girls’ dormitories. The kitchen is in an open area and has a small shed with a ceiling made of corrugated galvanised iron (CGI) sheets. In the hot season, CGI sheets become very hot. The kitchen’s wood ovens do not have pipes for proper ventilation.
The dining hall is located on the other side of the kitchen. The roof with the CGI sheets is not insulated, meaning the dining hall gets very hot in day time. The dining hall has a capacity of about 120 seats, so meals must be taken in four innings. There are three meals a day: One in the morning, one at noon and one in the evening.
Previously, the school used the local health post. A health professional used to come to the school for a regular check-up of students. However, these days, this service has been stopped due to shortages in the budget, according to the principal of the school, Narayan Poudel. One case of serious illness contracted by a student was reported by the staff. Unfortunately, he died on the way to hospital.
We did not observe any cupboard with stored medicines or first aid boxes. Since this is a residential school with 450 residents, it should have a qualified health professional. We suggest that the Martyr Foundation Nepal not only allocates funds for a health professional and a regular check-up of the children, but also establishes an ID-card system for them, in order to record their medical history on paper and in an electronic system.
Classes and pupils
The school has nearly 500 pupils, including 450 living in the dormitories, the rest being local children from poor families. They have classes from first to
eleventh grade and will be upgraded with a
twelfth grade next year as said before.
There are 160 girls and 290 boys in total living at the school. In grade eleven, there are eighteen students who study management and humanities. The students who choose the subjects of their interest can come from the other four martyr schools.
All pupils seemed very calm and disciplined. As far as we could see, it appeared that they were quite happy and living in harmony with each other. However, two students who went home on vacation did not return. The reason was said to be that the education is done in English.
The pupils do not pay to get their basic education and living there. Food, lodging, medicines, clothing, educational material, school uniforms are free. The local students are also given free education and provided with lunch every afternoon. However, they have to purchase their own books and stationary items. Like in the private schools in Nepal, all subjects, except Nepali, are taught in English. Public schools teach in Nepali, except English subject.
In the future, the MFN is planning to recruit students from earthquake-affected families and from the poorest of the poor and lower cast from local areas. We suggest also including street children in new recruitment policy.
The daily rhythm: They eat breakfast in four shifts. Otherwise, the morning is spent doing school work, or other necessary work. The classes last from ten am to four pm, interrupted by a lunch break. After classes, it’s time for physical training.
We observed the computer room in the first floor of the girl’s dormitory. There was no computer class during our visit. The reason was no electricity. There are twelve desk tops and five laptops computers. Only thirteen computers (eight desk tops and five laptops) are in working condition. There is no separate server which could help to have better control. The school has a computer course from grade one to grade eleven. We have suggested starting computer courses only from grade five to have effective use of resources. Regular computer classes have been interrupted because of the shortage of power supply. The electricity is supplied less than four hours during school time.
We noticed and were notified by the staff that the school was facing the following problems:
- A lack of regular health check-up for students. Martyr Foundation should address the problem. Medical facilities are essential to the 450 residents who live in a large group.
- A shortage of hostel rooms. Twenty-eight students live in one room. We think this is too congested. An additional story in the girls’ dormitory or a new building is necessary.
- A lack of library facilities. Books are not available for extra knowledge.
- Shortage of electricity to run computer classes and study in the evening. Solar panels, as an alternative solution, should be installed.
- There is no science lab or equipment. We suggest that this should be considered.
- The kitchen should have an arrangement for smoke outlet and a better constructed place for food storage. The roofs should be insulated. The dining hall should be cleaner and tidier.
Interviews with pupils
We conducted interviews with four pupils, two from grade seven and two from grade eleven.
Gita Budha (Fourteen) studies in grade seven:
She is from Jajarkot district. She has beenin this school for four years. She is one of the talented girls who achieved 77% in final exams in grade six. She lives in a dormitory with twenty- eight students in a room.
Her father was made a martyr. She has a mother, three sisters and two brothers. She visits home once a year. She wants to study science in high school and later studies.
Kamal Mahatara (Thirteen):
He is in grade seven and is from the district of Humla. He is one of the talented students. He secured 81% in grade six. He has been studying from grade four in this school.
He has lost his left hand’s fingers because of a bomb. His father, mother, brother and sister live in Humla. He visited his home after three years. He lives in a room with twenty-eight students.
Jyoti Gautam (Eighteen) studies management in grade eleven:
She achieved 70% in her final exams in grade ten. She is from the district of Surkhet.
Her mother was disappeared. Her father died later in an accident. She has a step-mother and a step-sister. She studied in Sidhartha Banasthali boarding school in Kathmandu from grade five to ten with the financial support from her maternal uncle. She joined this school in grade eleven. She is worried about her future after completing the twelfth grade. She asked whether it was possible to get scholarship to continue further studies in future.
Kamal Neupane (Sixteen) is in grade eleven:
He is from the district of Jumla. He has been in this school since grade six. He achieved 58% score in grade ten.
His father is a martyr. He has a mother, an elder and a younger brother. He visits home once a year. He is satisfied with his education and the school environment.
Donation of sports items
On behalf of Health Team for Nepal, we donated sports items as a symbolic support to the school. This includes three volleyballs, two volleyball nets, one pump, two footballs, four badminton sets (with net and shuttles), one badminton net, two cricket balls, two cricket bats, three cricket posts, cricket gloves and pads, two karate gloves, five sets of chess and one carom board with pieces.
The school organised a formal handover program on the 23rd of December. These sports items were handed over to the principal and vice-principal by Dr. Krishna Aryal in a gathering of all students and teaching staff and Dilaram Bhattarai.
We felt honoured visiting the school, school staff and children and donating sports items as a symbolic support to the school.
It was also our pleasure to meet with Dr. Nitya Prasad Khanal who works as an ultra-sound specialist in the regional hospital in Ghorahi and Mr. Dilaram Bhattarai who is a Professor in Dang Multiple Collage. Professor Bhattarai took a day off, visited the school with us and attended the handover program. The cooperation from both of them during our visit was memorable.