The Recipe for Hope: SPCS 2023 Visit
Earlier this month, I had the chance to visit the Sankhu-Palubari Community School (SPCS)in Nepal. The school was founded by The Advocates in 1999. I knew a lot about the school, I thought. I had participated in many in-person and virtual house parties where I had listened to presentations. I had read reports and spoken with the principal and graduates during our virtual events. I had spoken with people who had visited the school and listened to their stories. Moreover, I had seen lots and lots of pictures and videos. Yet, nothing came close to experiencing the building, the school spirit, the families, staff, and students. When we arrived, pre-k and kindergarten students in traditional clothing greeted us with marigold garlands (malas) and the 10th grade students had made a welcome sign of flower petals. As we joined the students for their morning assembly, they beamed with joy. They were happy to see us and excited to share their school with us. I felt very welcome.
Everywhere we went, people told us how impressed they were by the extraordinary examination results of the 10th graders. Many are students whose parents did not have the opportunity to attend school, and whose parents are small-plot farmers who barely raise enough crops to feed their family. And yet, the students overcome these barriers and others to follow their dreams. They attend college and university and become teachers, engineers, nurses, hotel managers, computer scientists, and more. Visiting the school and meeting with many people gave me some glimpses into the recipe for this incredible impact.
Dedicated teachers and staff are the heart of the school
Visiting the classrooms, the love between students and teachers and staff was palpable and permeated the entire school. Students said again and again how much they loved all the teachers, how much they appreciated their teachers' help in overcoming obstacles, and how much they trusted their teachers. The students are thriving because they are enveloped in the love and care of the teachers and staff. Experiencing this place and breathing in this spirit filled my heart.
Parents and students believe and actively join in the transformative power of education
Parents told me of their struggles to grow enough food to feed their family. And it's not getting any easier. They want their children to attend school and have a brighter future. Early graduates have become role models for the entire valley. Now every family now wants their children to attend school and be educated. Gone are the times when teachers went to families trying to persuade them to send their girls and sons to school. Today, there are more applications than open spots. And the students are eager to learn. School days are long and yet they don't want to miss a day. Many walk an hour or more to get to school, six days a week. Tenth graders have an extra 3 hours of instruction before school to prepare them for the national standardized exams. As a result, they are very well prepared; and many do exceedingly well, passing at the highest levels.
School leaders maintain strong relationships in the community
The local government values SPCS and its positive impact on the community. They have added a third floor to the building, fenced in the school grounds to prevent children accidentally tumbling into the ravine, and have indicated that they will provide playground equipment for younger students and a hard-surfaces ports court for older students.
The principal Anoop Poudel started as a young teacher at the school. He is beloved by all and connected throughout the valley. He works with the local government and private school leaders as well as the local government entities to address the overall educational needs of the community. He ensures SPCS graduates transition smoothly into 11th grade at other schools. He remains in contact with them and continues to accompany them on their journey forward. The Vice Principal, Sanziv Tamang, is a graduate of SPCS. He came back to the valley after graduating from university to make sure that the next cohorts have the same opportunities that he enjoyed. The students love him, and Mr. Poudel is mentoring him to become a great school leader. The two make a great team and lay the foundation for sustainable success of the school.
It takes all of us
Currently it costs about $300 a year per child to provide education, textbooks, school supplies, meals, uniforms, and extracurricular activities. I observed the great ingenuity of the teachers and students to create low-cost visuals and art for their classrooms. They are dedicated to build the best learning environment that they can. Our administrative partner, Educate the Children-Nepal has been a great resource for this.
Yet, a few additions are needed. The school needs more computers. The computer science classes are very popular, and five computers do not suffice. Right now, science instruction is completely theoretical; hands-on experiments would engage the students on more levels and foster deeper understanding. Filling the science lab with basic equipment and supplies would be fantastic. The nursery and kindergarten classroom have very few manipulatives and other early childhood learning materials. Supplying those would develop stronger fine-muscle coordination and pre-literacy skills. Additional books and reading materials are needed for the library. None of these needs are unsurmountable. We can come together as a community and watch the students thrive.
We know that these elements are crucial for educational success everywhere. What impressed me is that a small school in rural Nepal embraces and lives all of these to great success. Everything comes together at SPCS. Immersing myself into the school, talking with students, graduates, and parents as well as hearing the laughter emanating from the classrooms filled my heart with hope: hope for the Sankhu Palubari Community School families and hope for a better world where every child has access to education and succeeds.
Enjoy more photos from the trip on our website and videos on our YouTube Channel. Thank you for transforming lives.
Thekla Rura-Polley, PhD