During the 2021 COVID lockdown in Province 2 of southeast Nepal, our colleagues at the Mithila Wildlife Trust delivered food relief to a leper colony in Dhanusha District. It was through these visits that they discovered a small group of 15 (healthy) children of residents who were sitting around all day, receiving no educational support at all. There was a school room on the site but this had fallen into disrepair and was unstaffed. In addition, the children lacked citizenship certificates, so they were unable to enrol at the nearby community school.
Using grant funding provided by our friends at UK Foundation "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life", we have responded by appointing two tutors, Ritik Rishi and Ramesh Sada, to act as tutors. Ritik and Ramesh have both completed their "Plus Two" (Grade 13) exams and the salaries they are receiving from us allow them to continue their own academic progress with their Bachelor's studies. This is important as both of these young men come from the Musahar ("rat-eater") untouchable community that is impoverished and historically neglected. Helping young people like these through their undergraduate training goes a long way towards empowering their community by creating leaders and role models.
Already we have made significant progress. Aside from the children also being provided with tuition support and stationery, The Mithila Wildlife Trust has been working on getting citizenship certificates. Success! Now 11 children are also able to attend the local school while our colleagues continue to work on obtaining certificates for the remaining four children. So, this means that we have an arrangement mirroring that at Dhanushadham where children attend school alongside receiving tuition support with extra lessons and homework at separate tuition centres.
Ritik and Ramesh asked us if the extra tuition could be extended to 44 Musahar children in the community outside the colony. I was surprised at this as leprosy is highly stigmatised and feared in Nepal. However, the Nepal Leprosy Trust has been working on these attitudes locally and the families of these Musahar children are now happy for them to go inside the colony to attend the tuition centre in total safety.
Much more work needs to be done at this centre and at other locations within Province 2. This latter need has been the subject of a major community education programme that has been designed by our partner registered charity, Our Sansar. Subject to grant funding being awarded, we are hopeful that this broader programme will launch soon. Watch this space!