Access to Education and Hope: The Solukhumbu Girls Hostel
By Sarah Andrews, Edge of Seven
Growing up in her remote Nepalese village, located deep within the Solukhumbu (Everest) Region, Ngaki faced many hardships common among girls in Nepal who endeavor to go to school. The rural location of her village combined with the realities of her day-to-day life led Ngaki to wonder and worry about her future. She often doubted that it was possible for a girl in her circumstance to get an education.
Her mother died during childbirth, leaving Ngaki’s father, a farmer, to raise eight children on his own. Every morning in her village, Ngaki would rise at 5 a.m. and work feverishly to finish her chores of collecting wood and water for the household, feeding the family’s livestock, and assisting with the family’s crops before school started. Many days, she wouldn’t make it to class. “It was my dream to attend school when I was young, but I had to help my family,” she said. “While my friends around me went to school, I would stay behind to help look after our cattle.”
Nevertheless, Ngaki persevered, utilizing her every spare moment to study. Eventually, she reached her goal of completing grade 10, the highest grade of schooling available to her in her village, as is the case in many remote villages of the Solukhumbu Region. In fact, up until this year there was just one higher secondary school offering grades 11 and 12 in the entire region, which was located in the district capital of Salleri, a three-day walk from Ngaki’s village.
In 2010, Edge of Seven began working in Nepal to create access to education in rural areas by supporting schools in villages where girls are particularly underserved by a lack of infrastructure. To date, we have completed five school buildings and two community water supplies in villages where girls were often kept home from school to help collect water for their households each day from a faraway source. Through collaborative efforts with local NGOs, we are also ensuring that these schools are bolstered by funding for teachers, community education initiatives, and vocational training for girls.
Yet, while creating access to primary and secondary school is extremely important in Nepal and crucial to our mission at Edge of Seven, we also recognize that girls will never be fully empowered to break the cycle of early marriage and enter the job market without also having access to higher educational facilities, like colleges and universities.
In 2011, Edge of Seven and our partners in Nepal completed a dormitory for 40 girls from remote villages in Salleri who are attending grades 11 and 12. The girls are fully supported by scholarships and are provided daily support, vocational training, and leadership skills through the hostel. This year, we will work to build a second hostel in Salleri to accommodate even more girls, like Ngaki, who dream of receiving a Bachelor’s degree and becoming empowered to make their own decisions about marriage, childrearing, and employment.
Girls like Sandhya, who is studying business in Salleri and hopes to one day help other girls in her community enter the job market. Girls like Rama, who saw two of her older sisters enter into arranged marriages at the ages of 15 and 16 and who is studying to become a teacher. And girls like Sabina, who wants to become a social worker and help empower others. She said, “I want women in Nepal to realize their worth. When you are uneducated, it’s difficult and people can cheat you. When you have an education, you can find solutions to problems.”
To learn more about Edge of Seven’s work in Nepal and how you can get involved, please visit www.edgeofseven.org.
Sarah Andrews is the Executive Director of Edge of Seven.