Nepal: Education Cannot Wait

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Nepali students wait to receive scholarships after the 2015 earthquake destroyed their school and increased child-trafficking within their region

SINDHUPALCHOK, NEPAL – The 2015 earthquake not only destroyed schools; it put thousands of children, especially girls, at risk of being kidnapped and trafficked into India. One partnership is bringing education and anti-trafficking training to one of the hardest-hit areas of Nepal.

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On April 25, 2015, a massive earthquake struck Nepal. More than 25,000 classrooms were destroyed by the 7.8 magnitude quake and its aftershocks, killing more than 8,000 people nationwide. Many schools were rebuilt temporarily using bamboo, wood and tarps, while classes focused on group activities to help children recover from trauma after the disaster. In the worst-hit districts, it was estimated that 90% of schools were destroyed by the quake.

In addition to the lapse in learning, children who have been out of school for long periods are at higher risk for child labor, child marriage and sexual exploitation. Nepal state radio broadcasted warnings to parents after the disaster that child traffickers were exploiting the earthquake’s fallout, taking advantage of the thousands of newly homeless kids on the streets and lifting them from their communities to sell them into India. A report released by the UN’s Special Envoy for Global Education stated: “This serious threat is yet one more reason why it is imperative to get children back into school.”

Nepal state radio broadcasted warnings to parents after the disaster that child traffickers were exploiting the earthquake’s fallout, taking advantage of the thousands of newly homeless kids on the streets and lifting them from their communities to sell them into India.

A Tent Schools International (TSI) partnership in Nepal had developed soon before the earthquake hit, and the disaster added urgency to the need for educational funding there. With support from donors, TSI sent funding to re-start a destroyed school and provide scholarships for girls at risk of trafficking to attend a temporary learning center and training programs in the hard-hit Sindhupalchok district.

Here is a report from our contact in Nepal, Karen Feltman, staff of the Temporary Learning Center (TLC) program in the village of Ichok.

– Emily Klooster, for Tent Schools International

PARTNER REPORTKarin Feltman, TLC Program, Nepal

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Scholarship recipients in Ichok, Nepal

Sindhupalchok is not only the largest source area for human trafficking in Nepal, but it was also the area hardest hit by the earthquakes in 2015.

The village of Ichok is an area with poor school enrollment levels and even worse finishing rates, especially for girls. Less than 40% of girls are ever enrolled, and less than 13% complete 9th grade. Families have little motivation to keep their girls in school, and instead send them to Bombay, India, to work in the brothels and make money for the family.

Nearly all of the kids in the two villages where I work are displaced, or at the very least, living in shelters in their own village. Both of the schools in the area were destroyed by the earthquake. One village is attending school in a tent, another in a temporary school shelter. Many families either kept their children out of school at that point, or sent them away for education in other areas.

A bus of 25 children from Sindhupalchok who believed they were going away for school was intercepted at the border to India and it was found that they were in the process of being trafficked. Story after story like this is surfacing.

After the earthquakes, we used funding from Tent Schools International combined with disaster relief funding to outfit the destroyed school in Ichok so that it could begin educating 400 children again.

After the earthquakes, we used funding from Tent Schools International combined with disaster relief funding to outfit the destroyed school in Ichok so that it could begin educating 400 children again. We provided scholarships and supplies for 32 at-risk girls to attend school there who normally may not have had the chance. We also provided women’s health training to all the girls and women in the village as well as anti-trafficking awareness training.

Our program aims to motivate parents to enroll their girls in school, and to keep them there until completion – and later send them through a job training program so that they have the opportunity to earn money for themselves and their families without entering the forced labor or sex industries. We have a monitoring system in place to ensure that we are notified if any of the recipients have stopped attending school.

A bus of 25 children from Sindhupalchok who believed they were going away for school was intercepted at the border to India and it was found that they were in the process of being trafficked. Story after story like this is surfacing.

The names of 12 of the Ichok girls receiving scholarships

The names of 12 of the Ichok girls receiving scholarships

The stories of these children are heartbreaking. Pramila Tamang*, age 12, is a young girl who desires to “continue my studies and be a role model in my village.” Her mother is HIV positive and very ill. Abina Tamang, age 10, also has a mother suffering from HIV and who was a victim of sex trafficking herself. Anglo Tamang was only seven years old, but she has already been rescued from trafficking and is HIV positive. In this village there are more than 50 HIV positive women due to the effects of sex trafficking. The girls in this village long for a different life, a life of hope. They want to become successful and inspire others in their village that they can do the same.

As of this school year, all of the girls receiving the scholarships are not only still in school but all of them passed their exams!

Here are some pictures** of the children who were able to go back to school because of this project. I hope they make you smile. Thank you! – KARIN FELTMAN

*Tamang is a caste/people group, so most members of this group have the last name Tamang or Lama.
**Some of the project photos sent by the TLC Program are featured in this post.