Sanjay Aryal, January 2016
On behalf of Health team for Nepal, Hamid, Dr. Krishna Aryal and Sanjay Aryal visited the Martyrs’ Memorial Residential Higher Secondary School in Pokhara on 19-20th of December, 2015. The school is one of the five schools that the Martyr Foundation Nepal is operating in order to provide education for martyr children. These are children of soldiers from People’s Liberation Army who died or were injured during Peoples’ War that lasted for ten years (1996-2006) and children from the disappeared families by the State.
The school was officially opened in April 2009 and was last visited by our organisation in November 2011. Since then, it has been upgraded gradually to now include ten primary and two secondary grades, teaching three subjects: Humanities, Science and Management.
The school is located in the countryside in Majeripatan, pretty far from the main city of Pokhara. The school premises has plenty of area, spread in 70 ropani (equivalent to 35 000 m2). This ground is leased for 50 years from the government.
We were shown around the school grounds by the principal and the accountant. Here is a description of the school buildings: There are three residential buildings, or hostels: one for girls, one for boys, and one for the staff. Since 2011, each of the three hostel considered completed.
The hostel buildings have relatively small bedrooms downstairs and large dormitories with bunk beds. There are 4 bunk beds in each room, with 4 students sleeping in one bunk bed (2 above and 2 below) – in total 16 students per room. The smallest children sleep downstairs. On the other side of the compound, there are two buildings; one major building is a 3-storey building and consists of several classrooms and a staff room. The second building contains classrooms and accommodation for relatives of martyr children when they come for a visit.
The school has established poultry farming (for meat and eggs), pig farming (both domestic and wild, for export), cow farming (1 buffalo and 4 cows; 50-55 litres milk every day), and vegetable farming (for the school’s own consumption). The production of vegetables such as spinach, potatoes, cabbage and cauliflower within the school compound is sufficient for only 3 months, which means that they have to import vegetables the remaining 9 months of the year. In the future, they are planning to establish fish farming.
There are 16 teachers at school and 7 non- teaching staff (cleaner, cook, gardener, etc.). Mona Giri, standing next to Hamid (number five from the right), is the principal of this school and has a master degree in sociology. She is from Syangja, but lives in Simalchaur, about 11 km from the school. Salary for staff varies: Rs. 17 700 (grade 1-5), Rs. 18 800 (grade 6-8), Rs. 24 400 (grade 9-10), Rs. 27 900 (grade 11-12). Most teachers have completed master degrees in their respective subjects and are highly qualified.
There are in total 285 students, and about 10% of these students are locals. These local students come from poor families that are not able to pay for their children’s education. 25 students appeared in the School Leaving Certificate exam (SLC) last year, and all passed: 2 students with distinction (>80%), 21 students with first division (60-80%), 2 students with second division (45-59%). This shows excellent performance in the school.
In a small one-storey house near the hostel area lies the kitchen and the dining hall. There are three wood ovens for the big pots and a gas burner. As usual in Nepal, the smoke is emitted through a gap just under the roof. The dining hall has 84 seats, so meals must be taken in three innings. Meals are provided in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.
Portable drinking water system
In 2011, the school had a separate pump house for extracting water from an 84 metres deep well, which was then stored in two large tanks and distributed to all buildings. This water was not treated before. On our initiative, a slow sand water filtration system has just now been established, supported by Yanick and Rose Mary Chazay from France. This project was installed by Annapurna Eco- village in Pokhara. In this system, there are three buckets filled with fine sand, and the water percolates slowly through these buckets. And once filtrated, it ends up in 1000 litres tank, which is then distributed to the school for drinking purpose.
Previously, the school had contacts with a local health post. An employee used to come to the school for a regular check-up of students. However, this service has been stopped due to lack of funding, according to the principal of the school, Mona Giri.
There was a small room containing a cupboard with stored medicines, such as paracetamol and antibiotics, and first-aid kits. However, since there are no authorised health persons available, their use is based on experience and the personal judgement of the teachers. Since this is a residential school with
more than 250 residents, it requires a qualified health staff. We suggest that the Martyr Foundation Nepal not only allocates budget for a health staff and the regular check-up of children, but also establishes a digital ID-card system for them in order to record their medical history.
Classes and pupils
The school has 285 pupils, including 250 living in the residential hostels, and the rest are local children from poor families. They have a class for every level from first to eleventh grade – and the school will be upgraded to twelfth grade next year.
There are 126 girls and 159 boys in total. There are 45 students in grade 11, and the students who choose the subjects of their interest come from the other four martyr schools in the country. This year only 6 students have chosen science, and the rest, management and humanities. All pupils seemed very calm and disciplined. As far as we could see, they were quite happy, healthy, and living in harmony with each other.
The pupils do not pay to go to the school or for living there. Everything is free: food, lodging, medicines, clothing, educational material, school uniforms etc. Local students have to purchase their own books, but are given free education and provided with lunch every afternoon. All the teaching, except when teaching Nepali, is done in English. Most boarding schools in Nepal follow this system, while public schools teach in Nepali.
The school is planning to recruit students from earthquake-affected families, poorest of the poor, and lower cast in local area for future.
The daily rhythm: Up at six am for tea. A little later they eat breakfast in three shifts. Otherwise, the morning is spent doing school work, or other necessary work. The classes last from ten am to 4 pm, interrupted by a lunch break in three shifts – from 12 pm to 1.30 pm. After 4 pm it’s time for physical training. Then a little time is devoted to farming and playing. Bedtime is at 9 pm.
Here, a few children are studying after their classes are over in the afternoon. Unfortunately, they do not have any access to a library with desks and chairs.
Problems observed in the school
We noticed in our visit and were informed by the teaching staff that the school has been facing following problems:
- Lack of regular health check-up for students
- Lack of library facilities
- Shortage of electricity to run computer classes
- Not enough equipment in the science lab
- No security guard to control incoming visitors and outgoing pupils from the hostels.
Interviews with 4 children
Nabin B.K. (14) studies in grade 8:
He is originally from Kapilvastu district. His aunt was a martyr. He wants to study science in high school and hopes to become a doctor in the future.
He is a hardworking boy and achieved 83% in final exams in grade 7.
Roshni Luilet (14) studies in grade 10:
She is from Sarangkot, Pokhara. Her father and sister were both martyrs. Her mother comes to pay her a visit once a month.
She wants to study science in high school and hopes to become a specialist in agriculture. She also achieved 83% in her final exams in grade 9.
Sofia B.K. (17) in grade 11:
is originally from Kapilvastu district and is sister of Nabin B.K.
She goes back home only once a year, in Dashain. She wants to study arts/sociology.
Vivek Somai, in grade 10:
is from Palpa. His father was martyr. He wants to become a civil engineer in future. His mother pays him a visit every 2nd month.
He is a talented student, and achieved 87% score in grade 9. He is satisfied with his education and the school environment, and says that teachers give extra care for guidance when it is required.
Donation of sports items
On behalf of Health team for Nepal, few sports items were donated as a symbolic support. These include two sets of badminton (with net and shuttles), four cricket balls, two cricket bats, three cricket posts, one football (+ pump) and one volley ball. In the picture, sports items are being handed over to the principal Mona Giri by Dr. Krishna Aryal.
It was our honour visiting school staff, children and donating the sports items to the school.
We would also like to acknowledge local support that we received in Pokhara from Mr. Purna Adhikari and Mrs. Kabita Thapa Adhikari who welcomed us to their Merry Gold Hotel in Lakeside and to their Annapurna eco-village Asram. They drove us to the school and helped us buying the sports items.