Dancing to a beat of its own: Jyotidaya Cooperative School
KATHMANDU, June 10: Rameshwar Deshar was all of 19 when he became the school principal of Jyotidaya Cooperative School. Now 33, he teaches English and is a hands-on chief when it comes to the development of the school.
There can perhaps be no better example of giving and receiving, on equal terms, than the Sarvodaya Nepal and Anuvuti International Shramadana Camp initiative for Jyotidaya Cooperative School in Chapagaun, Lalitpur.
Jyotidaya Cooperative School was started by six young men in 1998 with the intention of providing quality education to the students in their village.
Since private schools were too expensive for most villagers, and with the quality of education not being up to the par in government schools, Jyotidaya was established as the school where quality education would be available at a reasonable cost for the students.
The school runs on 40% lower fee than most private schools. Now in its 14th year, the school has 290 students who are taught by 21 teachers and boasts of a 100% success rate in the SLC examination for the last four years.
The idea for the school came from Shakya Suren, a social worker. A firm believer of combining religion and development, he came to the local Buddhist temple in Chapagaun to share his thoughts and it was then that the seed for the school was planted.
He says, “The big gap between government and private schools was what brought about the need to have a school which would provide quality education at a lower cost. Now, I feel good and satisfied when I see how far this school has come. It’s like seeing the fruit of a good work.”
The seed money of Rs 47,000 was donated by the six founding members Ramesh Deshar, Rameshwar Deshar, Dil Bahadur Deshar, Santa Bahadur Deshar, Lalit Bahadur Dangol and Shakya Suren and also by the members of the Jyotidaya Cooperative Society. The money went on to register the school in the Lalitpur district and buy furniture.
Recently in June 1-6, 2012, under the servicelearning program, students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, young volunteers from Anuvuti International and grade 10 students from Jyotidaya Cooperative School participated in the Shramadana Camp.
Students of Chelsea International Academy, a school in Kathmandu, also participated in the program, even though it was an overnight participation. The American students on the other hand completed their two and a half weeks academic program on Global Health through this program.
A total of 95 people comprising of students and member of Sarvodaya Nepal and Anuvuti International were involved in the three core activities of the program.
The main purpose of this program was to help construct a new building for the school, which is being built using natural and eco friendly raw materials like adobe and bamboo.
Swastika Shrestha, Founder CEO of Anuvuti International, says, “Anuvuti came into being because we were looking for a more meaningful service which involved mindful giving and receiving, where both the giver and the receiver feel powerful. We wanted to do more than charity.” This has been the driving force behind all the programs that Anuvuti has started or partakes in. Anuvuti conducts around 10 Shramadana Camps in a year.
Participants also helped build a playground and start a school garden for the school children. Divided into three groups, each group worked together in plastering the new walls with sustainable natural materials like cow dung, mud, straw and sand along with a little cement.
The groups also helped build the play ground and the garden. The school committee intends to grow vegetables in the garden to provide healthy food for the students.
Dil Bahadur Deshar, Founder Chairman of Jyotidaya Cooperative School says, “Whatever grows in the garden will be cooked for the students and we mean to slowly ban all junk food from school. We are also planning to start classes 11 and 12 soon and include agriculture as a subject so that the students can learn the basics. Since most students’ families own land, the students will benefit from the training. They will be able to earn their livelihood.”
Shisir Khanal, Executive Director, Sarvodaya USA and President, Sarvodaya Nepal says, “I believe that education has to be practical. I first learnt about Jyotidaya when my boss in Sarvodaya USA gave me a book to read.
I remember he said, “I believe it’s in Nepali”. So that’s how I learnt about the school. I am now an advisor, a guide and perhaps a vision maker for the school. And since Sarvodaya USA has a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we have brought who are studying health here. This program will get fetch them 3 credits.”
Folding her hands together in a namaste, Jordan Mottet, 19 a student of University of Wisconsin-Madison says, “This is a really great cause and I am very glad to be here. I am enjoying my home stay. The experience is different from home and in a good way. The hospitality of the people here is amazing. They are so friendly and seem happy to have us. The people I am staying with are always offering me tea and cookies”
Ganga Sundas, 17, a student of Chelsea International Academy says, “Yes, it’s been good to be here. If given an opportunity, I would definitely love to come again. Though we have come from school, this was not mandatory and it was our decision to come here. Last night, 13 of us stayed in the principal’s house because there were no extra rooms and the rain and shortage of blankets felt a bit too much. But we have chalked it down as experience.”
Tanpa Namgyal, 19, another student of Chelsea International Academy is excited to say the least. He says, “Last year, I went to Lele with Anuvuti International and experienced home stay there too. This year I’m here to help the school in whatever way I can. After looking around we can see that it needs to be developed and better facilities should be provided. One of the best things about home stay is the amazing food. Unbelievable but it is better than the last home stay.”
Rameshwar reminisces, “The first three years were fun. I persuaded my uncle to give us his house for the school building. Initially, we just opened classes from nursery to grade two. We used to teach from 10 in the morning to four in the afternoon, go home to eat and come back to sleep in the office. The teachers took Rs 500 each after all the bills were paid and later it started rising from Rs 500 to 1200 to 1600 and so on. The responsibility of being the principal led me to complete my Masters. Inevitably, problems started creeping in after seven years. Teachers started to leave; they had scholarships for studies abroad and parents couldn’t even pay the tuition fees which were low. With bills and salaries to pay, we were more than a little nervous then. However, since we met Shisir dai in 2006 and Sarvodaya USA expressed interest, our problems have eased Our school’s students have been helping us whenever they can but this is the first time that students from other schools are here.”
Fourteen years ago, young men wanted to bring positive changes to their village education system. And today Jyotidaya Cooperative School seeks to impart its students with not just theoretical learning but also with practical skills that enable them to fend for themselves.
An initiative such as this one, where empowerment and learning are the main focus might be the way forward for our education system which is in a limbo for a long time.