Monday, February 15, 2010

The Bamboo Schools of Nepal

Many parents in Nepal do not want to send their children to public schools because of their poor reputation. However, for many parents the costs of private schools are out of reach.

An article from Inter Press Service today profiles the Bamboo Schools of Nepal. The Bamboo Schools strive to keep the costs of education affordable, for qualifying families it's the same price as a clove of garlic.

From IPS, writer Damakant Jayshi describes why they are called Bamboo schools.

The Samata schools, also called ‘bamboo schools’ because their structures are made mainly of bamboo, now make up the largest chain of non-public educational institutions with more than 18,000 students in 10 districts in Nepal.

Eight more are in the offing in eight districts in central and eastern Tarai, Nepal’s southern plains, with each school expected to have at least 3,000 students. The foundation-laying ceremonies in the eight districts are scheduled for Feb. 22-24. "My goal is to open at least one Samata school in each of the 75 districts in the country," Sanjel added.

Samata’s growing number of students is in stark contrast with the nationwide dropout rate among students as they reach higher grades.

According to Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics data for 1997-2006, the number of students enrolled during the decade was 4.5 million at the primary level, 1.3 million at the lower secondary level and 679,445 at the secondary level. These figures indicate that as students move upwards in the school system, not many continue with their education.

The Samata schools do not spend much on infrastructure because they cannot afford to. The classrooms and other structures, like teachers’ rooms and hostel, are made of bamboo, with cement plaster from inside to lend strength. The floors are rough and uneven, with bricks missing from the floor in nearly all the classrooms.

Being made of bamboo is not the only unique thing about the Samata schools. The medium of instruction is English – considered a passport to success – because parents and guardians in Nepal prefer private English- medium schools over Nepali or other vernacular language schools.

The school fee is merely 100 Nepali rupees (1.35 U.S. dollars) for students in all the grades, this amount being a little less than the per-kilogramme price of garlic. There is a one-time admission fee of 150 rupees (2 dollars), which can be waived for very poor students in a country where poverty affects 31 percent of its 27 million people, going by Asian Development Bank figures.

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