Durbar High School is the oldest public (government-funded) school in Nepal. It was the most prestigious school in the country; built to educate the nation’s elite.
If you visit Durbar High School (the white building in the background) any morning of the week, you will see a long line of buses waiting outside its gates. But they are not waiting to drop off students at the school. They are waiting to pick up students, and take them to other, private, schools across the city.
It tells you everything you need to know about the state of public education in Nepal, that what was once the most desirable school in Nepal, is now little more than a bus stop to take children off to other schools.
It’s no different in the community around our school. Every morning, as I turn off the main road onto the rough dirt track that leads to Jana Uddhar, around eight to ten school buses pass me driving in the opposite direction. National United High School, British Gorkha School, Chandbagh School, Hello Academy, St Joseph English School, Trungram International Academy, Amardeep Secondary School (otherwise known as ASS – their abbreviation, not mine).
Jana Uddhar is basically situated on the edge of the city with nothing beyond it but hills, and yet even from this small community there are busloads of students, traveling for possibly hours a day, to attend a school, any school, that is not a public school. Many of the children in these buses could, and should, be attending our school, but such is the stigma (much of it justified) attached to attending a public school, that they prefer to go elsewhere for their education.
So that is ultimately our challenge. Can we turn the tide, and begin to win back students to public education; to convince them that a local, (almost) free school can be as good as a private school? If in, three years time, there are less school buses leaving our community each morning, we will have achieved something.