Venture past the major bus park in Pokhara, Nepal and you are greeted with a sprawling community of landless dwellers. The slums are home to families from over 68 districts across Nepal, attracted by the promise of Pokhara city. Families here are among the poorest in the country, and represent many of the most marginalized communities.
In the middle of this slum sits Sahara Primary School, serving the children in this community. Nine-year-old Ranjit Nepali is a student in Grade 3 at the school. He lost his parents when he was young, and lives with his relatives. Despite difficult family circumstances, he is doing very well in his studies, topping his class year after year. At the school since nursery, Ranjit wants to become a doctor when he grows up.
“I like studying,” he says. “When I am free at home I do my homework, study, and wash my uniform.”
Government-run schools in Nepal have historically been poor performers, driving students like Ranjit out of the education system. However, reforms have been implemented over the years to make Nepali schools work for the children of the poorest. Early childhood education, enhancing access to marginalized groups, community management of schools, and enhancing the quality of education are all goals that various programs have instilled in the system.
The School Sector Reform Program (SSRP), an initiative of the government of Nepal, is a comprehensive program addressing the entirety of the school system in the country. The program aims to increase access to and improve quality of basic education (Grades 1-8), especially for children from marginalized groups.
The World Bank is supporting the School Sector Reform Program, and through it, schools like Sahara, with a $130 million International Development Association (IDA) credit. With resources pooled from eight other development partners, the program achieves donor harmonization, and a sustained, single strategy for extending the promise of education to all children in Nepal.
The program builds on previously successful initiatives such as community management of schools, in which Nepal’s experience has been exemplary.
“The Wall Speaks”
For the past 10 years, Shishu Kalyan Community Primary School in Kaski has been run by a school management committee consisting of teachers, parents, and community leaders. At this school, education is provided from nursery through grade 8 and, surprisingly for a government-run school in Nepal, the pass rate is 100%.
The school takes transparency and accountability seriously and has started a program called “The Wall Speaks.” Annual workplans, budgets, teacher attendance records and the list of members in the school management committee are all hung up on various walls for all to see.
“When this information is up on the wall, nobody needs to ask us to know this information. We make it easy for them,” says Mantri Lal Poudel, the principal at the school.
SSRP’s goal is to achieve Education for All objectives. To achieve higher completion rates, the program is emphasizing early childhood development programs for pre-school children (ages 3-5). The nursery program at Sahara and Shishu Kalyan have been good ways to get children into school early, before they are able to contribute at home, and become valuable as laborers.