By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM
Life on high altitude is not difficult; it is very difficult. The climate in these areas is harsh and it turns bad to worse during winter when temperature dips from -200C to -250C. Even daytime the average temperature is not enthusiastic…It ranges from 00C to 50C. One can imagine how difficult is life there.
Constantly plummeting temperature takes a toll on school going kids’ health. They are forced to remain in their houses. Skin biting cold brings life to standstill around the high Himalayas and schools are shut for at least four months. However, good news is that even when schools are shut in Mustang, the local administration has made it possible to run classes until schools are reopened.
By the effort of Mustang Gaon Palika, all the students of six schools of Mustang Charang Basic School, Manang Basic School, Dhatmar Basic School, Ghara Basic School, Yara Basic School and Saligram Basic School are brought to Pokhara where they study in a rented building for four months. They call this school a Samudaik Ghumti School (Community Mobile School).
Speaking with this scribe, Kamal Neupane, headmaster of Samudaik Ghumti School, Pokhara said, “In the past when we did not have facility to run classes in Pokhara, we had to close all schools in Mustang. Following the closure of all schools in winter, all the kids would migrate with their parents to different places of the country. This further caused low students’ retention rate in schools. However, things became much easier since 2014 as Mustang Gaon Palika had started paying all the expenses of these kids in Pokhara”.
The students of all six schools study together in Pokhara at Samudaik Ghumti School. At present, there are 7 boys and 14 girls in the school. The school is run from October to February. As temperature starts increasing from February, these kids once again migrate to Mustang and continue their studies without any interruption and the purpose of Samudaik Ghumti School is over in Pokhara.
All the kids studying in Samudaik Ghumti School in Pokhara look very happy. The most interesting thing is that the classrooms where the students study in daytime are turned into dormitory in the evening. Sounds interesting, is not? Yes, this is true.
Shedding more light about this unique situation, headmaster Kamal Neupane said, “The building which is used for the school purpose does not have enough rooms. We don’t have extra rooms which can be used for dormitories. Therefore, we are compelled to use classrooms as bedrooms”.
The school has to pay forty five thousand rupees for the use of the building for four months. The good thing is that for the rest of the months when school is not run, the school is not liable to pay any rent.
The majority of the students are from Nursery to standard three, but the school has permission to run classes up to standard eight.
Two lady kitchen staff stay with the kids during night in the school. All students get up early in the morning and do homework. Thereafter, they take breakfast and play. While these kids play, two Didis (kitchen staff) prepare lunch for the kids.
“We ask kids to sit in a row on the school playground for lunch. This is an exciting moment for the kids as they are always hungry and look desperate for lunch. But it is also a challenging moment for us to feed them, because some students are small and therefore we need to help them feeding”, said the kitchen staff.
Come Saturdays and it is a fun time for the kids. All kids wait for Saturdays because on Saturdays they can play to their hearts content. This is not all that the kids eagerly wait for the Saturdays. On Saturdays, when sun shines hard in the midday, these kids are taken to the river for the swimming. Yes, you are right…for swimming!
The kids take their lunch, play enough after then they are taken to nearby Yamdi River, which water is clean and suitable to take bath. Under the strict observation, these kids are helped to get bath in the river.
Before kids are taken for the river bath, all teachers collectively make a thorough observation and select a safe place where they can allow kids for the river bath.
“We are aware of possible risk involved when small kids go into the river. This is why we are extremely careful about this. It is because of our strict discipline and vigilance that until now no accident has ever taken place and it will never happen as well.
“The fact is that these kids love water too much and they want to spend more time in the river. These kids’ clothes are washed in the river water then put under sunlight to dry. When clothes are dried up, we take all the kids back to school…this is our weekly routine as long as these kids stay in Pokhara”, said the headmaster.
There are 21 students in the school and to teach 21 students, there are 14 teachers. It sounds little absurd, is not? When this scribe asked this question with the headmaster of the school, he said, “These students are from six different schools of Mustang and each school has two teachers. Along with students, all the teachers do also come to Pokhara. This is the reason why it seems more teachers to teach 21 students”.
The headmaster heaved a deep sigh and said, “These kids have no uniform. We want these kids should also have warm clothes as their uniform, but due to financial constraint, this has not become possible. We will be happy if some philanthropists come out with the helping hands and provide uniform to these kids.
“We are very glad to inform that Goma Gurung, a local resident of Pokhara, has celebrated her son’s birthday, who is currently studying in New York, USA, with the kids of our school. A cake was cut and many balloons were given to school kids. She did provide a delicious lunch and stationeries & playing items for the kids. We are really grateful of her kindness and love shown towards the kids”, said the headmaster with a broad smile on his face.
When asked to Mrs. Goma Gurung that how the idea of celebrating her son’s birthday with the kids actually came to her mind. Upon this she said, “Every year I find a new place one like this where I can celebrate my son’s birthday. It really gives me tremendous amount of happiness and satisfaction. I want to continue to celebrate my son’s birthday like this manner in days to come”.
As winter soars up and temperature dips, these kids are more vulnerable to cold related complications. It would be very nice if a hospital, clinic or doctors show mercy upon these kids and make arrangements of fortnight medical checkups. If medicines were also provided to sick kids, it would be a great relief for the school. “Unfortunately, the school does not have any budget for this purpose”, acknowledged the headmaster.
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