During our visit to a school in Thaddhunga, Gulmi, a woman who helped keep school premises clean and litter free said, ‘There are some unknown forces and ideals that bring us to the service of school.’ We were curious to know what motivated her to be in this role and asked, ‘Do your children study in this school?’ She quickly replied:
Yes, all the students in this school are my children. My house is just adjoined with the school compound, and I consider them my children. If school is litter-free students will learn better and develop important ideals about keeping the environment clean.
She said that she was associated with the mother’s group in her community. Other members of her group also helped to make school premises welcoming to learners and teachers. They did not allow the cattle enter the school playground and they helped cut the grass that grew on the ground to maintain the schoolyard so that children could play during the school break.
Among the stakeholders supporting Nepal’s community schools, local non-governmental and community based organizations are at the front line. They have been providing assistance in various ways. During the piloting of questionnaire in Gaidakot it was found that the Drinking Water User Group had provided a water tap to school for the use of students and staff. One of the members of the group had shared her sentiment that they could not bear the scene of students going to nearby houses with water bottle during the recess. Later, they also helped to set up a water purifying machine to provide ready-to-drink water within the school premise.
We also found that NGOs and community-based organizations supported construction and improvement of physical infrastructure. These included maintenance of school buildings and toilet facilities, provision of classroom furniture, fencing and equipment for rainwater collection; provided educational materials, and support to teaching and learning activities. For example, an NGO in Rautahat donated some computers to a local school. These computers were also used for the students with disability. Such contributions are made not only by NGOs but also by individuals, who have donated chessboards, volleyballs, and other materials. In addition, the schools also availed agricultural tools from the parents that are used for gardening in all and agro-based activities in vocational schools.
Supports related to educational materials and teaching – learning activities
Some NGOs and CBOs distributed educational materials such as books and stationery, school bags, uniform to children who represented poor backgrounds and other materials that were needed for teaching and learning. We also observed examples of NGOs/CBOs providing financial help to children from poor families and awarded scholarships to talented students of marginalized communities and minorities. Likewise, some organizations helped establish the renewable fund for scholarship and other educational activities and provided books and established child friendly libraries in schools.
In Dailekh, we observed rather surprisingly that the NGO personnel were more acquainted with the location of official school documents in the municipality filing cabinet than the municipality officials, which indicated how closely the NGOs were working with municipalities on day-to-day school governance.
Support related to skill development and income generating programmes
An NGO had constructed a special toilet at Majhgaun School in Chitwan district with the sustainability provision – that the waste was collected and processed to use as organic fertilizer in the school premises. The technology helped produce bio-fertilizer which was being used for vegetable farming in the school’s farm. The potatoes and other allied agro-products that were produced in the school’s premises were used for mid-day meal to all students. By using the organic fertilizer, the cultivated vegetables and fruits in the school helped for skill development of students and generated some revenue for the school. The school had succeeded in providing the mid-day meal for students through their own agricultural products by using biotechnology.
How is educational inclusion enhanced through these initiatives?
The NGOs, CBOs and individuals in local levels support all students irrespective of their caste, creed and socio-economic backgrounds. Some of the NGOs are particularly conscious about the needs of most marginalized children and are committed to the agenda of equity and inclusion. The head-teachers acknowledged that their schools did not have adequate resources to promote inclusion but some of the gaps were kindly filled by NGOs, CBOs or individuals. They pointed out that the supply of sports equipment or provision of clean drinking water provided by NGOs helped make the school environment more inclusive. A chess-champion Dalit student may be regarded and recognized by all that helps mitigate caste-based discrimination. Even if a student is not a champion, the participation in any kind of game and other activities enhance equality, as opined by the teachers and parents. The NGOs and CBOs have a crucial role in facilitating activities at schools that could reduce exclusion and stereotyping of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. School and civil society partnerships in fact promote inclusion in Nepal’s state schools.