A short 1.5 years ago, we met 9 children in unethical and heartbreaking conditions sharing what looked like two old and worn out tables as beds, squished together in unhygienic circumstances. These children, young and innocent, were found at the back of a ‘mainstream’ school in rural Nepal, where 600 healthy students attended next door, paying very little attention to these 9 children sleeping, eating, supposedly ‘learning’, and living out the back of their school in two worn down, damp and dark rooms. These children included Lok, Dipak, Sajan, Roshan, Khem, Prabhat, Suman, Gobinda and the only little girl Hira. These children had Special Educational Needs.
Everyone has the right to be included, respected and to be treated with dignity; every child has the right to a quality education in a safe and hygienic learning environment.
Unfortunately, throughout many parts of Nepal, Special Educational Needs (SEN) children are viewed as outcasts and unworthy of equal treatment. Sadly, these children can be treated unethically due to their parents and members of society believing they are being punished by the gods for sins committed in their past life, as explained by Mr. Shankar Prasad Pathak Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.
In a 2015-2016 on the ‘Living conditions among people with disability in Nepal’, even in city and built up urban areas, only 52.4% of peoples with ‘disability’ have the opportunity to gain a primary education, and in rural areas it is even less, with only 32.5% of children with ‘disability’ being able to gain an education.
As we value Education, Empowerment and Storytelling, we have made it our mission to be the voices and support for SEN children in rural communities. Our SEN Support, Empowerment and Awareness (SEA) Program seeks to bring equality, dignity, compassion, and care to these children often lost in the shadows of society.
We are proud to OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCE that our National and International THNA Ambassadors have put in an incredible effort with supporting these children. Only 1.5 years ago, with tears in our eyes and our hearts instantly beating for these children, we had taken the first helping step by treating them for scabies, due to one child passing this skin condition onto the other children (unavoidable in the previous tight conditions). Now, there are many people to thank for an abundance of change, and we shall make more posts in future to do this.
We would like to take the time to thank 3 of the people in this post. Dhanyabad to Damaris Booth from the UK, Paloma Mayrargue from France, and Sabine Liane Konrade from Germany for their recent support!
TIMETABLE TRANSFORMATION: We are proud of Paloma and Damaris for introducing a classroom timetable, to allow for more supportive learning. Damaris and Paloma had introduced this concept to the rural teacher (who is close to retirement and had no practical SEN training) and were concerned it would not be continued after they left. Paloma recently returned after a few weeks and was incredibly thankful that the timetable was still being used! Incredible progress.
CLASSROOM CHANGE: We are excited to share that our SEN children in rural Tanahun now have vibrant and multi-coloured furniture to brighten up their environment and state of mind, due to a request to the Principal of the ‘mainstream’ school for paints (his agreement without hesitation shows how much the culture has changed already). Sabine and Paloma did a wonderful job painting with the students!
UNIFORMS for EQUALITY: We would, furthermore, like to thank Paloma for fundraising for uniforms! This opportunity of clothing is an immense step towards inclusion. In future, we are seeking to include the ‘mainstream’ school and parents in this uniform sponsorship initiative, to take a further step towards a crucially important cultural shift.
SUSTAINABILITY: As this is a main value of ours, our next steps are to meet with the School Committee and the Municipality / Village District Office members, to come into an agreement about the next teacher that will take the current rural teacher’s place in the near future. Once we have a younger, more energetic, passionate and engaged trained teacher we can invest more time and recourses into training this new teacher to provide a tailored and high quality educational support to the SEN children of Tanahun.
FUTURE GOALS: In future, we are planning to duplicate this model of the SEN SEA Program, to support, empowerment and bring awareness to new communities and children with special needs.
My heart personally grows stronger each day with its faith in humanity. Dhanyabad (thank-you) to everyone who has joined this vision and made incredible change for SEN children in rural Nepal possible, and to all of you who are followers of this journey as a whole.
Interested in helping? Want to join this journey of change? Please do reach out to us if you wish to get involved with our Special Educational Needs SEA Program.
Sincerely Jody Dontje
Founder and Programme Director of THNA