A visit to Sindupalchowk, Bhotenamlang VDC was conducted on the 14th and 15th of January 2016. The team from Global Inclusive Adventure Organization (GIA) was accompanied by Sandesh Dhakal and Sanjay Gurung. Primarily the visit was intended for delivering afternoon meal supplies to schools of Bhotenamlang VDC & Thangpaldhap VDC (Kshetrapaleshwari HSS, Bhotenamlang Secondary School, Bachhalamai Primary School, Thangpaldhap HSS).
A mini-truck full of afternoon meal supplies for all schools was loaded a day earlier in Kathmandu and the journey started on the set date early morning.
At Tipeni (Kshetrapaleshwori HSS) the visit team met the school officials, Mr. Raju Shrestha and Principal Mr. Kul Bahadur Bhujel. The impact of the afternoon meal program was discussed. The store room where the meals were stored was visited. The impact of the program was also assessed by interviewing different students and teachers. It was found that the afternoon meal program has been very effective which is aided by the fact that the number of students attending school regularly has been consistent (especially at the primary level) and the number of students has also increased from 50 to 100. The teachers remarked that the students were in better health because of the meals provided. They added that the meal support has aided in the rehabilitation of students after the earthquake at such widely affected areas. Teachers remarked that due to the afternoon meal program students were now voluntarily attending school rather than being forced by their parents.
One of the students, Devaki Danwar from class 10 aged 15 from Danwar Gaun shared her experience about the afternoon meal program. Previously she did not have anything for tiffin. She faces lack of nutritious food at home. She is very happy about the afternoon meal and says she likes ‘rice pudding’ the most. On asking about any improvements to make on the meal program, she told that different variety each day would be nice.
Supplies for Thangpaldhap School were also unloaded at Tipeni and handed over to the focal person of the school.
The trip then headed towards Gurung Gaun, and an assessment of the afternoon meal program was conducted at Shree Ganesh Lower Secondary School. Due to sufficient stock of food, no more supplies were unloaded here.
Feedback from students, Sajan Giri aged 7 of class 1 and Ramesh Puri, aged 13 of class 7 were interviewed about the afternoon meal program. They let us know that the program has been effective and has resulted positively as their willingness to attend school has increased significantly.
Besides, feedback from principal Uchit Lal Yadav was also collected who provided data on the number of students. He informed that the number of students attending school without registration has increased from 15 to 20 recently due to the afternoon meal program.
Bhotenamlang Secondary School, Chiling, was our final destination where we unloaded the remaining meal supplies. Principal Mr. Gopi Krishna Parajuli welcomed us and briefed us about the current status and impact of the afternoon meal program. The kitchen room and store room were also visited which were quite satisfactory.
Significant impact of afternoon meal program could be discovered here:
- Previously students preferred to go home at lunch break and many of them didn’t return; this tendency has come to an end as students eagerly wait for meals and stay at school for full period.
- The number of students has increased significantly (unregistered students, especially in primary level).
- Registered students attend school regularly.
- Students are very happy considering the nutritious food which some of the students rarely afford to have at home due to their poor economic condition.
- Foods like beaten rice with curry, rice pudding and flour pudding (Semolina or Halwa) are popular among students. Especially students of the primary level are very eager to attend school aided with the motive of having lunch.
- Many unregistered students (10-15) of very small age just come to school with spoon and tiffin box with their siblings and stay till half time to have tiffin and then return home. This also has aided by improving earthquake affected children’s habit of attending school even before school age rather than just playing around at home.
Feedback from one of the students Yuvraj Pandit of class 6, aged 12 from Pandit Tole was collected who explained about the significance and importance of the afternoon meal program and remarked that students are very happy about the meal provided at school. He said, “My house is half an hour walking distance from school. It isn’t feasible to go to home for an afternoon meal and I couldn’t bring the meal from home. So, the program has added a new dimension towards school, study and moreover added extra motivation towards attending school for me.”
When asked for any improvements to be made for the program, he suggested that more varieties of food such as tea, biscuit would be more exciting.
Likewise Principal Gopi K. Parajuli and secondary level teacher Kumar Shrestha explained that his class has increased by 27 students after the afternoon meal program started and unregistered students also attend school frequently with their siblings. Mr. Parajuli also shared that the problem of a cook is becoming rather challenging these days as it has been very difficult to appoint a cook permanently for a long period of time.
Maya Gurung and Shailee Basnet are now respected leaders in their community. They have earned the reputation of being ‘doers’ among villagers who often only see ‘talkers.’ Maya and Shailee have signed an Memorandum of Understanding with the district government to rebuild five schools in Maya’s home village of Bhotenamlang in the district of Sindhupalchok. This district has the greatest death toll after the Nepal earthquake, and in Maya’s village, there is literally not a house standing. As a result, sex-trafficking is more rampant than ever. Keeping kids, especially girls, in school is the most effective way to ensure that they stay away from traffickers. Educating women in remote areas, as well as empowering them by creating choices, is the way to keep them safe and on track.
- Rebuild, equip and staff six schools
- Create proper administration
- Facilitate running water and sanitary toilets
- Provide school supplies
- Provide counseling and teacher training & support
- Provide afternoon meals for children
- Establish initiatives to build awareness of anti-trafficking for children and adults