Socioeconomic and geographical barriers impede the education of many children from the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH). Girls in particular have to deal with multiple disparities, and the fact that they are female means accessing education is that much more difficult for them.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is committed to women’s empowerment. It is also committed to the empowerment of the youth. In 2014, as a gesture towards celebrating International Women’s Day, ICIMOD started a scholarship fund to support poor and disadvantaged young girls from Jana Vikash School, a government-run high school in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Jana Vikash School was established in 1961. Initially a school for children of the rural elite, it is now a learning center for poor children, and a majority of its students are girls. While many parents are willing to shell out money to send their sons to private school, investing in their education, they will not do the same for their daughters. Government schools are cheaper, which often means that while the sons go to private schools, the daughters attend government schools.
Most of the parents of the students at Jana Vikash are either tenant farmers or labourers working in brick kilns. Data from 2014 shows that many girls dropped out of school that year to find work and support their families. ICIMOD decided to support a few girls from the seventh till the tenth standards with a scholarship programme in a bid to help them at least pay their exam fees or buy stationary. The students are selected in close consultation with school management based on criteria listed in Box 1. Students have to meet a minimum four out of the six criteria.
So far, 16 girl students have received the scholarship, out of which five have passed the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam. Although two of the girls dropped out as the scholarship could not help them defeat the gender and social barriers they needed to battle with each day to come to school, nine others are currently receiving the scholarship. The girls study in different grades.
The Jana Vikash School management believes that education scholarship for girls reduces their rate of drop out due to economic compulsion. Nearly 75% of the students enrolled in the school are from very poor and marginalized families. ICIMOD allocates NRs 50,000 annually to the school for meeting basic requirements like exam fees, non-course books, and stationery.