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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Education in the shadow of Everest
By Richard Chilvers
Aid worker

Sagarmatha - "a churning stick in the sea of existence" - is the Nepalese name for Mount Everest.

It could also refer to the country's political climate.

Pupils
Nepal's children face many threats to their education

Maoist guerrillas began their armed campaign six and a half years ago to replace the constitutional monarchy with a communist republic.

At least 3,000 people have died in clashes between the army and rebels, many of them children.

Education is, like the rest of life, suffering severe disruption. Children are also suffering.

Some labour in the fields all day, unable to read and write, some are exploited in factories, others are sold to the sex trade in India.

Amid all this turmoil sits the Solidarity International Academy at Hetauda, 220 km south east of the capital Kathmandu.

The school was set up in the 1990s and has two main reasons for its existence, according to Rishi Acharya, the founder principal.

These are the provision of good quality education for children - including the many poor - and the preparation of leaders for the church and country.

There are now more than 1,000 pupils and the school is having to expand to a second site next to the current one.

'Agitation'

Currently, 290 children are being sponsored by people in the UK, through the charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Mr Acharya thinks many of the school's intake see it as a refuge from Nepal's troubles.

He said: "New students have come in huge crowds, week after week.

Nepalese scene
Nepal's beautiful scenery belies the risk of natural disasters

"Accommodation, the provision of new classrooms and the search for new teachers make us very busy.

"We haven't experienced much peace this year. The Maoists have been agitating us from the beginning and it seems they will continue to do so.

"There is a great amount of uncertainty for the nation and its people."

On top of the threat of violence, monsoons flooded large areas of Nepal this summer.

'We believe we will continue'

An estimated 420 people lost their lives, including two children from the school.

The outlook often appears bleak.

Prakash Subedi, one of the pupils at the school, wrote a poem called My Motherland Nepal.

It ends: "Oh Mother, what can I do for thee? What will tomorrow's children find and see? Let's unite together for our nation's peace, And save the nation from breaking piece by piece."

It seems Nepal will prosper only through children eradicating mutual religious and political hatred.

Mr Acharya said: "There is violence and pressure all around, but there has been no effect of all these on our activities in the school and the church. We believe we will continue."




SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Nepal
02 May 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Nepal
06 May 03  |  Country profiles
Nepal rebels slam US terror label
02 May 03  |  South Asia
Nepal longs for peace
27 Apr 03  |  South Asia


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