KATHMANDU, June 7: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” However, only brains and feet are not enough to enlighten yourself and chase your dreams. It is also schooling and education that you get in your early age.
Despite this ‘fact’, failure stories of schools – especially the government schools – in Nepal and quality of education provided there is not a new thing for people of our country and beyond.
What do you picture when you think of a government school in a remote location? Lack of textbooks? Absence of teachers? Or is it poorly managed infrastructure and low quality education among many others?
You won’t find all these ‘tales’ of a government school in a Himalayan village of Helambu. Despite being located in a lap of himalayas with no proper means of modern transportation, communication and other urban facilities, Shree Melamchi Ghyang Secondary School located in Melamchi Ghyang, Helambu-1 of Sindhupalchowk district provides free quality education to students while the renowned boarding schools in the Kathmandu Valley are charging thousands of rupees for the same.
It is a government-owned school but students are taught in English. Besides, it has its own hostels – separate for boys and girls – that is home for 248 students who have traveled from across the country seeking quality education. The school not only provides free education but also free hostel facilities. The students are charged minimally only for food. “Each student only pays around Rs 100 a day for breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, snacks in the evening and dinner at night,” said Principal of the school, Purna Bahadur Gautam.
Students are not charged for using the library, science laboratories and computer labs like that in private schools in most of the regions of the country. And, the interesting part is it has nothing to do with the government except providing salaries to ten teachers.
The school is basically run by the financial support of donors, especially foreign. Due to its image and working style, the school has been successful in winning the trust of some international donors who provide salaries to teachers and support school to build infrastructure required for a quality education. Community Action Nepal (CAN), Keta-Keti, Tsering Fund and Hyolmo-Connect are some of them.
There are currently over 300 students and enrollment of new students is currently underway as the new academic session has just begun. In the first few weeks of the new session, the school has welcomed over 100 new students, according to principal Gautam. “We have students from Kanchenjunga region in the east to Kailali in the west and Dhanusha in the south,” he added.
There are 17 teachers including the principal who have been assigned with various other responsibilities like hostel wardens and discipline incharge among others. It is the students who maintain sanitation in the school. They are assigned to clean their own classrooms, school premises and toilets as well.
Academically, the school has been securing top results in the Secondary Education Examination (SEE) in the district since its establishment. It was the first government school in the district to attend SEE in english medium in 2063 B.S. Distinction results in SEE is not a new thing for the school. In the recently held SEE examinations, of 24 students attending the exam 12 were awarded with A+ results, 13 with A and two with B+ results. Likewise, in 2076 B.S, 24 students attended the SEE while 10 got A+ result, nine got A and five got B+ results. And, in 2075 B.S, of 24 students attending the SEE, 10 secured A+, 11 secured A and 3 secured B+ results.
It might be a dream for government schools to acquire this level of results in SEE but the S.M.G.S.S has been maintaining this sort of results for a long period of time.
Apart from providing quality education, the school has also played a vital role in uplifting the economic status of the region and environmental conservation. Students who passed out from the school are earning successful and prosperous lives in and outside of the country. Some of them are currently working for the school itself as teachers. Besides, the school buys vegetables and other food items from the village and provides a market for locally produced goods, according to Gautam. “Since the school lies in the region of the Langtang National Park, we organize rallis, encourage locals to conserve the environment and discourage deforestation,” he further said. “Sanitation and forest conservation are the major priorities of the school.”
Likewise, the school has provided an identity to the Melamchi Ghyang, a temple village at almost 3000 meters from the sea level. The school has also played a vital role in promoting tourism. Domestic and foreign tourists often come to visit the school and the village.
“Despite being at a remote location, Shree Melamchi Ghyang Secondary School is one of the best schools of the district and has been securing best results in SEE in the district for a long period of time,” said Krishna Prasad Subedi, the District Education Officer of Sindhupalchowk. “The school and the principal Gautam have played a vital role in providing quality education to students not only of the region but also of students across the country free of cost,” Subedi added.