Chepang ethnic communities have been living their subsistence and semi-nomadic life in many hill areas of Chitwan, Dhading and Makawanpur Districts. As their livelihood depends upon forest, most of their settlements are at the edge of the forests. They practice shifting cultivation clearing the prime forests that have the severe environmental problem in many hill regions.
Their main occupations are agriculture and livestock. They grow maize, millet, barley, junelo, different types of vegetables and fruits, and rice (at low lands) seasonally.
Traditional practice of cultivation in steep and terraced hills with its top soil blown away by monsoon rain yields agricultural products that are not sufficient for whole year. So they have to seek for alternative source of income/food especially during the food deficit months from Fagun (February/March) to Asar (June/July). Some youths leave their villages in search for labor works in nearby town or different districts. Many Chepang people depend on wild foods (githa, bhyakur, choya, tyaguna) during these months. Some go for fishing if their settlement is close to the river and streams.
When parents go to the forests in search for wild foods, elder children have to stay in the house to look after their younger siblings and do household work. These economic hardships have severe impact on the education of the children.
CHALLENGES IN HILL SCHOOLS
Lack of nutritious food obviously affects the physical and mental development of children that have adverse impact on the educational improvement. Many schools do not have enough basic school supplies like: books, copies, pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers etc. They also lack sports materials and items/tools for entertainment, indoor games and physical activities. Because of geographical situation, they do not have proper and enough playing ground.
It is found that School Management Committee and School Administration are often inactive and ineffective for the educational development as there is no effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism from District Education Office. Many teachers come from lowland to teach in these hill schools and they attend the school in rotation such that few teachers (in some occasions only one teacher) teach or manage whole students. It is found that School Management Committee often pays not much attention to these issues.
Not enough playing ground in Dihitar Primary School
Primary level education that is nursery to class 5 runs in many hill schools. Local community should take initiative and responsibility to upgrade the status of school from primary to lower secondary level (up to class 8) and lower secondary level to secondary level (up to class 10). Government provides not much support on this regard. But, local community does not have sufficient resources to upgrade school on their own.
After primary education, students have to either move to other village or walk long distance to attend lower secondary school. For example, many students from Shaktikhor VDC, Dahakhani VDC and Siddi VDC have to walk 2 to 3 hours to come to Chaturmukhi Secondary School located in Shaktikhor VDC, Ward No. 5. But, many students could not continue their higher education after class 5 because of these hurdles.
SCHOOL SUPPORT PROGRAM
Nutritious food is essential for these students for their educational improvement through physical and mental development. Moreover parents are obliged to send their kids to schools and students also feel happy to go school and concentrate on study.
Food program in Pokhari Primary School
Basic school supplies along with sports and entertainment materials/items, pictorial books (mammals, birds, butterflies, plants), comic books, encyclopedia are essential for the students for their overall improvement. There should be proper school environment and basic infrastructures like drinking water, toilet, library, comfortable playing ground etc.
Books for Nepal, a non governmental organization with aim to support schools and students for the educational development, has initiated the food program in 5 schools (Kirantar, Pokhari and Surkhandi primary schools in Korak VDC and Upardang Gadi and Kape primary schools in Dahakhani VDC) with the support from various organizations and individuals. Books for Nepal is feeding satu to some 693 students of these five schools.
Food program in Kirantar Primary School
The main objective of this program is to assist students for their educational performance through their physical and mental development. It is hoped that students could focus on their studies fully when healthy food is provided to them. Specific objectives of the program are: 1) to provide healthy and hygienic food to students in school during their break. 2) assist them in their education. 3) observe, inspect and analyze their educational improvement along with physical and mental development.
HOW SATU PREPARED
Approximate quantity of each ingredient in satu is: maize 45%, wheat 25%, chickpeas 15% and soyabean 15%. Whenever it is possible, these cereals, especially maize and wheat, are purchased from local farmers. These cereals are shifted to get rid of unwanted substances.
Cereals roasted in the furnace
These cereals are then well cooked (roasted) separately in the furnace with different temperature for different items. Then these are mixed properly and pulverized.
Cereals pulverized in the mill
Satu (power form) is first kept in plastic liner before it is kept in sack. Plastic liner will be air tight and sack will be sealed.
School should submit the proposal to Books for Nepal for implementation of food program. Proposal should include: 1) introduction of school and village with geographical location 2) infrastructures and facilities in school 2) total number of registered students (boys/girls) with class wise and caste wise. 3) reasons to implement food program in the school. Then, representative of Books for Nepal visits the school to observe and inspect the situation of the school and the students. Upon the recommendation of the representative, Books for Nepal would take the final decision to implement food program in the school.
Memorandum of Understanding is signed by the president of Books for Nepal and the president of School Management Committee.
Exchange of MoU in Kape Primary School
Food program should be implemented in the school in accordance with the Food Program Management Plan. Common Minimum Requirement should be approved and agreed by any school which seeks any support from Books for Nepal.
FOOD PROGRAM MANAGEMENT PLAN
1) Food Program Management Committee should be formed that comprised of representatives from School Management Committee, teachers, parents, women and Books for Nepal.
2) Readymade food (satu) and sugar will be provided by Books for Nepal. Satu should be well cooked (roasted), fresh, healthy and hygienic. Other necessary materials like bowl and spoon will be provided by Books for Nepal.
3) Satu and other materials should be kept safely in school.
Food program in Surkhandi Primary School
4) Satu is only for students who are officially registered in school. No-one should misuse it.
5) Each student will be fed three tablespoonful (approx. 41.49 gram) of satu which will be mixed with a teaspoonful (approx. 5.19 gram) of sugar and water. Food program is done every school day except Friday (half day).
6) School will keep the record of number of students fed on the particular day depending upon their classes.
Food program in Kirantar Primary School
7) Food Program Management Committee, teachers, parents and School Management Committee should help in distributing satu to students.
8) Students should wash the bowl and spoon after eating satu and keep them safely. Teachers and school administration should help them in this regard.
9) Food Program Management Committee in consultation with other concerned parties will do the program inspection and evaluation. If any adverse effect occurs to any student, the Committee should inform Books for Nepal and the student will be medicated immediately.
Satu transported to Upardang Gadi Primary School
10) If any problem or difficulties arise during the program duration, it will be solved and settled by Food Program Management Committee with mutual understanding among concerned parties. Discussion and decision will be written in the minute book.
Food program in Upardang Gadi Primary School
11) Sole right of this program is reserved by Books for Nepal. Books for Nepal has sole right to terminate this project at any time if it deems necessary. Upon this, all the properties used for this program belongs to Books for Nepal.
COMMON MINIMUM REQUIREMENT
1) School Management Committee and School Administration are responsible to fully comply with Education Acts promulgated by the Nepal Government. In accordance with these Acts, school operation and management should be done effectively.
2) School premise should be regarded as peace zone such that any activities that are detrimental to students and school environment such as political activities, violence, quarrel, fight, physical and mental punishment to students should be strictly prohibited.
3) School premise should be declared drug-free, smoking-free and alcohol-free zone. No-one should be allowed to enter school premise who are drunk and/or have taken drugs that are prohibited by the Nepal Government. School Management Committee, School Administration, teachers, students, parents, local people and organizations should work together to implement this program effectively.
Program evaluation is done and the reports is prepared including all the relevant information drawn from the program activities and the meetings. Necessary amendment will be done on the Food Program Management Plan according to the evaluation reports.
Food program in Pokhari Primary School
At the beginning of the food program in Kirantar School, some 3 students got diarrhea after having satu. But, they recovered soon and such problem did not occur afterwards. Such incidences have not occurred in other schools so far. Students have found satu delicious. Teachers have noticed that students are more active and alert after implementation of food program at the school. In the evaluation meeting, parents said that their kids do not ask for food after returning from school.
BUDGET FOR FOOD PROGRAM
A student consumes approximately 41.49 gram of satu and 5.19 gram of sugar per day. It costs around NPR 55 per kg of satu. The school runs for average 230 days per year (educational year). Estimate suggests that it costs around NPR 72,422 to run food program for 100 students per year. This budget includes cost of satu, sugar, steel bowl, steel spoon, transportation of food items, evaluation visits and report writing.
ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES OF BOOKS FOR NEPAL
Concept of Books for Nepal was first envisioned by Hemu Adhikari who is residing in Florida, US. With the support from his family, friends and various organizations, he collected children books for the library of Khairahani Secondary School. Some 2000 books were transported from US and delivered to the school on August 24, 2008.
Books for Nepal has provided school supplies (books, copies, pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers and some sports materials) to Kirantar School, Upardang Gadi School and Kape School.
School supplies distribution in Kape Primary School
Books for Nepal has provided NPR 100,000 to Shree Gyanjyoti Lower Secondary School, Dhungre, Chandi Bhanjyang with financial support from Global Action Coalition (GAC) to upgrade its status from lower secondary level to secondary level.
First batch of students of class 9 in Gyanjyoti Secondary School
Now, some 39 students are studying in class 9 staying their own village. GAC has also supported Books for Nepal to conduct the food program in four schools.
Books for Nepal is registered as non governmental organization in District Administration Office, Chitwan (Regd. No. 067/68/3) and in Social Welfare Council, Kathmandu (Regd. No. 30318).