photo credit – Help Dolpo
Adult Literacy Classes
Adult literacy class at Tiling school
image credit – Yonten Gyatso – former coordinator, Tiling School
Very few adults here have had the opportunity to attend school. The first school was not built until 1999. The second was built 4 years later. (Both were initiated and funded by trekkers).
All of the schools we support hold adult literacy classes in the evening and in the winter. This gives adults and older children an opportunity to learn to read and write. The villagers speak a Tibetan dialect, which is not used outside of Upper Dolpo, so learning the Nepali national language is important. Basic numeracy skills are also taught.
Most of the adult students are women. Women here work extremely hard. They are responsible for much of the backbreaking agricultural labor and livestock care that keeps their families fed. They are also responsible for all of the cooking, cleaning, childcare and eldercare.
Many women see education as a valuable opportunity but often do not have time to study even though they may wish to.
Here are the stories of two women who were not able to attend school, one is attending after school literacy classes, the other is not.
Tsering, age 54
1. How many kids do you have? And number of children you have sent to school for higher studies?
I have five kids. In the beginning I sent my eldest daughter to Karang school back in 2004 but I couldn’t continue because I had no one to help me in the fields. Afterwards, I managed to send two boys at the monastery in Kathmandu to study Tibetan Lama. Lhakpa was the next one I sent to school and now he is studying at grade 12 with the help of donors.
Tenzin Dolma is my second eldest daughter and she studies in grade 9 at Karang hostel in Kathmandu. The recent one was another boy who doesn’t have parents at village and I raised him from a very small age like my own child. I sent him to Kathmandu at the end of 2021 after graduating grade 6 and now he study in grade 7. The youngest daughter is now 9 years old and she will be studying in grade one this summer session at karang school.
2. You have managed to send so many kids to study which is obviously a different case compared to many in Upper Dolpo. What is the one thing that inspire you the most?
It used to make a visit to the city areas to make household shopping many times. The funny thing is that I can’t recognize number written on Nepali notes. The only way to count and recognize these notes are remembering unique images printed on them. In most case I have to ask for a help near around while shopping or any money related works. This was and is the worst experience I face every day. The experience taught me a huge lesson.
3. What does it mean to you to be able to provide an opportunity for your children to study?
I am getting older day by day. I can’t expect them to provide me a better life but it’s my last chance to give my best and as a mom to sacrifice whatever I can to make them happier, live a better life than I do and being able to make their own choice in life. Life is hard. We work days and night in fields, rear cattle in rain and snow no matter what but there is no change I see at the end instead we become weaker and weaker.
4. What is your dream for them?
I don’t have specific dream for specific child. My biggest dream is let them to study so that one day they will be able to make their own choice in life, know how to read, speak and write.
5. You are getting old and there is no one to help you in fields, rear cattle etc. Do you still want to continue sending the youngest child to school?
Yes, of course. Actually it is hard. I have no choice other than letting her to continue study. If I don’t then it will be an unfair among children.
6. There is a winter adult education and you said you never attended. What you think is the reason behind it?
I have to rear cattle every day in the mountain. I have to send kids to the school. So, I don’t have any choice back then but now I don’t think I can learn well. There was a time I had to send kids to rear animals instead of school because farmers never finishes their work.
Lhakpa, age 24
1. You have been taking winter adult literacy class for two years. What made you to find a time in between and learn how to read, write and speak?
I am still nervous about answering the question now. Girls are considered to work at home and help household work from a very small age. I never thought that going to school was important. I have to focus more in field, cattle, and household work.
I remember very well that I couldn’t communicate in Nepali language with people from outside of Upper Dolpo. I was embarrassed. So, I decided to take a time off in winter when we didn’t have to look after field in order to attend the class. Parents thought it was a huge risk but I forced myself to learn as much as I can in the morning and evening shift. I regret a lot not attending school and parents never thought this was going to be very important step in my life.
2. How does it make a difference in your day to day life?
I can read and understand words written on boards above shops, vehicle, school name, and use mobile to make call and sometimes write messages. I can’t understand all but very basic words used every day.
I can write my name, age, and family member’s name. I am so happy to be able to make my own signature. I write a letter to my friends in Nepali. I never thought this would happen in my life.
3. How do you manage study materials? Do you prefer reading or writing- and why?
We get all the study materials from Karang school. There is no shop to buy when we need them on time. I prefer reading because I want speak more and communicate. It’s very practical every day.
It always seems impossible, until it’s done.
– Nelson Mandela.