Making technical education practical and accessible for rural communities: A pilot initiative in Nepal

Despite the enormous natural wealth with its rich and unique biological and cultural diversity and traditional craftsmanship as well as a high proportion of economically active population, Nepal still remains as one of the poorest countries in the world. One of the causes for this is the poor access to quality education and practical training.

The country has invested for improving access of its citizens to education including free education up to the secondary level, and over the past one decade, it has made considerable improvement in school enrollment at primary level. But a large number of parents, especially in rural areas, are still not able to send their children to school. Furthermore, the drop-out rate of the students is quite high; almost 40% of the children leave school before completing the secondary level; this is even higher for the girls and children in the rural parts of the country. Many rural households face labor shortages at critical period of the cropping period, and to overcome this, children are used to assist their families in the fields. Girls have to do household chores and child caring. The opportunity costs of forgone child labor, gender-based division of farm work and sometimes the out-of-pocket expenditures for children’s education are a few factors affecting children enrollment in schools, and the continuation to schools. The quality of education and practical applicability is very low. The students who have been able to continue their education and who have completed the secondary school, and even vocational education are not able to find suitable jobs or start their own work, which on one hand have made the people undermine the importance of education, and on the other hand have triggered the outmigration of youth to nearby urban centers and abroad, even for menial jobs, in search of better income opportunities.

With a vision of creating rich biodiversity and prosperous communities, ANSAB generates knowledge and designs programs for community-based, enterprise-oriented solutions, which are then implemented in partnership with community groups, local enterprises and other stakeholders. The major outcomes achieved include the conservation of ecosystem and biodiversity, improvement in local livelihoods, enhanced capability, improved governance, and social harmony. Improving the access of children to formal education as well as the practical aspects of the education has been one of the agenda. It has provided scholarship to students in its program areas to attend schools and hosted student volunteers and interns, from Nepal and other countries of North America, Europe and Asia.

ANSAB has supported communities to increase access of their children to education through revenue diversification. We have also provided some direct support in small amount, where it matters the most. For example, a support to blind and girl students in Shree Salija Higher Secondary School in Parbat with scholarship and educational materials including Braille machine is found to be worthwhile for the community. In another case, on-the-job training and a scholarship support to Kabi Raj Praja, a member of Chepang, which is one of the most marginalized indigenous groups of Nepal, is pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Forestry, and will be the first forest graduate from his community.

In this context, ANSAB with support from the Estee Lauder Companies has developed an education program, which is being implemented in Dolakha district since 2016 with the objective of supporting local communities to improve overall education in general and provide practical technical education & vocational training (TEVT) to youth in particular, which would serve as an example for making education practical and increase accessibility of marginalized population. Over the past three years, ANSAB has supported poor students from Jiri Technical School and Sarba Secondary School generating the following outputs, among others: a) increased access of marginalized population to TEVT through entrance preparation coaching to 20 and scholarship to 10 students; ii) established partnership with the two technical schools to enhance quality of TEVT, & capacitated them with support in library, basic field and laboratory equipment, school gardens, eco-farm and NTFP demonstration plot benefitting over 300 students, & teachers’ exposure visit to exemplary eco-farm and enterprises; and iii) developed an On the Job Training (OJT) package on eco-farming with 22 students graduated through the ANSAB provided OJT opportunities. We observe that the practicality aspects of the education are being regularly updated over the years, for example the provision of school gardens in the participating schools, and organization of exposure visits to the exemplary eco-farms for the subject teachers. The current year will also support the students on self-employment and job-placement, especially through their capacity building on enterprise development, business planning and job preparedness.

ANSAB is grateful to Estee Lauder Companies, jointly with which the program was developed and is being implemented.