Binod’s dream for children of the remote region KATHMANDU, Dec 9: A passionate advocate for the right to education of the children in Dolpa, Binod Shahi has been known for his work in the Upper Dolpa region for the past eight years. He teaches, visits reluctant parents and talks to the youth in the region advising and campaigning for the right of every child to study and learn. His campaign doesn’t stop in Dolpa alone. Due to the harsh winter, the school closes for six months and Shahi returns home to Kathmandu and continues his campaigning. His priority is always his children in Dolpa.
It was towards the end of 2004 when Shahi, a Fine Arts student of Lalit Kala Campus, with deep interest in social work, volunteered to teach in a school in Boudha. The children, he would learn, came from Upper Dolpa to continue their education here when the weather conditions caused the school to close down. These children would change his life. As he says, “It’s because of them that I’ve found so many changes within myself. Going around campaigning on their behalf has made me bolder.”
What the 31-year-old teacher, and by now a local of Upper Dolpa, has acquired is a feeling of good things to come. “It was very hard, initially, to convince parents to send their children to school. I went from door to door to persuade, argue and talk with them,” he states.
In 2008, Shahi started walking five hours to another village, Komang, to teach the children there. After he finished his regular classes on Friday in Saldang, he would walk to Komang and stay the night. Next day, he would teach the students and then leave for Saldang again. His sheer dedication made the villagers view him in a new light. He says, “It’s much better now, but there’s still a long way to go.”
Life in Upper Dolpa consists of shared hardships and everyone putting in their best to survive. Yet there is contentment in the hearts of the people. It is something that has touched Shahi deeply. He remembers his own days when food left so much to be desired, when water was scarce, and when they would have to live practically in darkness. Yet he brushes them off. “Those things aren’t that important. We’re surviving,” he says in a matter-of-fact way. He adds that he recently bought a solar from China, “But I don’t know how long it’ll work,” he laughs.
They have classes every day. From morning to four in the afternoon, it’s regular school hours, and from four to six in the evening, it’s time for the bigger children who are busy with work during the day. He loves teaching and he says, “We are always short of materials, so we make do with what we have. We use stones, animals and everything in sight to teach and make a point. In fact, I think that’s a much more effective way to communicate an idea to the students.”
When he started teaching, he would use his artistic abilities to connect with the students, making them laugh and making learning an interesting process for them.
Shahi has big dreams for the children. He says, “There are children who go off to herd sheep with two pieces of buckwheat bread tucked in their clothes. They can’t attend school even if they want to. My plan is to give them drawing materials so that they can draw and exercise their creative abilities, or even to provide them with cameras so that they can take pictures and record their daily activities.”
He knows he cannot do this alone, nor does he want to depend on foreign contributions. He reasons, “This makes people lazy and makes them take things for granted. Also, it’s time we started being more responsible towards our own fellow countrymen. If foreigners can help us why can’t we do something ourselves?”
So he visits schools to talk to students. He makes them understand that their small contribution of an exercise book and a pencil is very helpful to friends far away. This is also a way of instilling a social consciousness in them, he says. He tells them not to ask their parents for stationery but to save a small amount from their lunch money every day and help their friends.
“I’m always fundraising,” he laughs. “I ask my friends to help out. Whenever I meet my relatives and neighbors, especially homemakers, I ask them to save a Rupee everyday and donate it at the end of the year.” A small but important step for everyone involved.
He has plans of collaborating with colleges to send their students pursuing Bachelors in Social Work for six months to Dolpa. “It would be great for both parties. We would, no doubt, benefit immensely from their skills. And they would learn something and gain so much experience,” he says.
Currently, Shahi runs two schools: Yeatser Primary School and Himalayan Dhralarong Primary School. Established in 2009, Himalayan Dhralarong is in Komang, operating with the help of some French citizens. Yeatser Primary School was set up last year and has around 28 students upto class three.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. This year, he was presented with Rs 132,900 by Shikshya Foundation Nepal who has also promised to help with Rs 125,000 every year. His ultimate goal is to educate the children in Upper Dolpa while keeping in mind the importance of preserving their culture.
He is as forthcoming about his personal life. “I haven’t been a very good son, but my parents understand me. I’m scared that when I get married, I would hurt my wife,” he says, smiling. He goes on, “Dolpa will always be my priority. Even my Fine Arts degree is something I want to complete only after I retire.”
Retirement for him is when he starts losing his physical abilities.
To learn more about Binod Shahi and his works or to help him in his endeavor, visit www.dolposir.blogspot.com or get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or buzz him at 9849044636.