Rural public schools in Nepal frequently do not provide students with the skills and environment they need to create a better future for themselves. Many teachers have no formal training beyond high school. Many schools lack basic infrastructure such as furniture, weatherproofing, playground equipment, or even toilets and clean drinking water. The national dropout rate is historically very high.
Early childhood education (ECE) programs prepare children for a lifetime of learning by instilling a habit of regular attendance, promoting good basic study habits and health practices, and offering important socialization. Over the years, ETC has established dozens of ECE programs for children ages 4-6 in rural schools where none previously existed. Our staff works closely with school officials, parents, and teachers to establish and maintain the ECE programs as permanent fixtures within schools.
According to our 2009 independent evaluation, the Grade 1 dropout rate for was 0.19% for children who had attended one of ETC’s supported ECE programs, compared to a national average of 12.1% in that same year. Similar benefits accrued for each subsequent year of primary and secondary school (through Grade 10): dropout rates ranged between 3-16% lower for the children who had attended one of our ECE programs, compared to the national average.
Every year, ETC supports multi-day professional development opportunities for teachers who would otherwise have none. These trainings encourage teachers to move away from traditional rote learning and toward a more interactive approach. Participating teachers can also build their professional networks, share successes and challenges, and learn from each other both during and after the trainings. Given that they are teaching in relatively remote and isolated areas, this training is of enormous ongoing help to them – resulting in greater job satisfaction and performance, and not coincidentally helping to increase student attendance rates.
Financial support and supply provision
Keeping children in school is a major financial challenge for many of rural Nepal’s families. Girls in particular are often kept home to care for younger siblings and do household chores while the parents work in other people’s fields. Historically, there has also been less interest in investing in girls’ education because after marriage they live with their husbands’ families and work for them.
ETC offers financial support and provides supplies to enable access to education for hundreds of children each year, with an emphasis on girls. Each of our women’s group members receives support for one of her school-aged children each year, with preference for a daughter if she has any. Additional children are sponsored by numerous individuals and families around the world. We also offer cash scholarships for tuition and supplies to students ages 16-20 who have successfully completed Grade 10 and are seeking specialized training in such areas as agriculture, teaching, nursing, and technology.
ETC’s School Improvement Program (SIP) ensures that schools have adequate infrastructure, including furniture and supplies. A healthier and more pleasant environment helps improve the quality of education and school enrollment rates, and reduces dropout rates. SIP work varies depending on the needs of the particular school and can include roofing repair/replacement; wall and floor plastering; installation of fencing, retaining walls, doors, and windows; toilet construction; provision of safe drinking water, furniture and classroom supplies, recreational materials, and first aid supplies; and in some cases, construction of entirely new buildings. In the case of new construction, ETC’s investment is matched by a in-kind support from community members, usually in the form of building materials and labor, thus bolstering the communities’ commitment to and pride in their village schools.