Education needs a safe haven
For almost two decades, the goal of the PATRIZIA KinderHaus-Stiftung has been to ensure children and young people throughout the world enjoy a better future. To this end, it creates places where these young people can become healthy, learn or simply grow up in a location where they are safe: KinderHaus facilities, centres and schools. There are now 14 of them in all corners of the globe. One of the is the Shiladevi Primary School in the village of Dhoksan in Nepal.
It has not been an easy time for the Nepalese KinderHaus. The Shiladevi Primary School is used to offer children an education. It was officially opened and started offering classes in 2012. That was before a devastating series of earthquakes struck the Himalaya region in April 2015. Around 9000 people lost their lives and approximately 800,000 buildings — including over 4000 schools — crumbled to the ground. Miraculously, Shiladevi Primary School in the mountain village of Dhoksan was left unscathed. The KinderHaus was occasionally used for disaster relief after the earthquake until finally, in 2016, it was ready to start offering lessons and fulfil its original purpose again.
The people for whom this was the greatest source of delight: the 120 schoolchildren. This is probably why they seem to have no problem sometimes marching for more than an hour to the school at the summit. No problem at all, despite the steep trails and scrambling along unprotected paths – daredevil terrain for most Europeans. For the children that ‘ascend on’ Dhoksan from the surrounding area, it’s a normal walk. They’re quick and sure-footed as they navigate their way to the classroom. Perhaps most importantly, they’re highly motivated. They always look forward to school. They’re always keen to be on time.
Solid and sustainable
When they arrive at Shiladevi, they are welcomed by a school building that is lovingly looked after. It really did survive the calamitous earthquake almost without so much as a scratch. What makes this all the more aston-ishing: the seismographic readings during the quake of the century in April 2015 literally shot off the Richter scale. Even in this precarious location between different tectonic plates, this was an exceptional episode. But it was not chance or happenstance that allowed the KinderHaus to survive unscathed. One reason it still stands today stems from the construction methods of the primary school, which was specially designed with local conditions and the constant threat of earthquakes in mind. The entire building was made with bamboo using a technique known as balloon framing. And all materials were supplied by nature. The bamboo used in the school is untreated and each individual element is mounted on exterior and interior walls to create a basic framework for thick plastering. As a result, these natural materials are solid and robust — not to mention long-lasting.
Teaching combining tradition with modern education
Every aspect of instruction at Shiladevi Primary School is stamped by the hallmark of artistic pursuits. This is noticeable from the timetable: the pupils sing, dance, play instruments and paint. Even maths lessons feel a bit like a musical. Man Bahadur Pakhrin, a pure-blooded pundit of pedagogy, will quickly confirm this observation. He explains why artistic expression is such an important part of their education. Squeezed between the two cultural giants of China and India, the birthplace of Buddha has always been careful about guarding its age-old traditions, its character, its obvious hospitality and its unique warmth and cordiality. This is all integrated into teaching.
Naturally, singing and dancing are not the only priorities at Shiladevi. For instance, English lessons are particularly important, despite the dearth of teachers. The headmaster emphasises that being able to teach the children English is certainly not something that can be taken for granted. The reason he highlights this is that the teachers at the school earn the equivalent of around €180 a month. Also, given the earthquake, the government of Nepal has had much bigger problems to worry about than a pay rise for teachers or making fundamental improvements to the curriculum.
To maintain standards for teachers and pupils and ensure Shiladevi Primary School retains its appeal, the PATRIZIA KinderHaus-Stiftung pulled together its own special package of renovation ideas. All of the windows at the school were given glass panes this year and a new ceiling has been mounted under the roof to improve the sound insulation and room temperature. The rough concrete floors in all areas of the building have been smoothened and made more pleasant. Man Phadur: “It’s lovely for us at Shiladevi Primary School to keep seeing the progress happening, in little and sometimes big steps.”
Plans for the future
That’s not all of the building work that will be carried out in Kattike in 2017. The school will also be expanded by three new classrooms. The idea is to offer what’s called a basic school with the intention of offering a secondary education to pupils when they finish their primary education. Man Phadur Pakhrin: “Progress depends on education and education depends on progress, which is why our children need schools.”
The plan is to add a small dining room and a library and to extend the playground and toilets. For the headmaster, this will result in the fulfilment of one of his biggest aspirations. “When the school extension is finished, this will be a unique opportunity for our children to shape the destiny of their own country by receiving a solid education,” he says with a strong sense of pride.