Shelri Drugdra Lower Secondary School, Saldang
The school uniforms are traditional Tibetan chupas.
The work to develop the school at Saldang began in 1996 when a trekker, Aledheid Donges of Freunde Nepal, Germany began discussing the project with Karma Dhondrup, a village elder. Negotiation for the land took some time but eventually the villagers began construction with financial support from Freunde Nepal.
The school opened in 1999 with only 3 classes and year by year more classrooms were built until the school had 6 classes. The school at Saldang now teaches children from kindergarten through class 6, after which they must go to Kathmandu if they want to finish their higher education. A hostel for students from Saldang is available to them there – Shelter108.
Saldang School has continued operation without interruption since 1999. There have been years where funding requirements were difficult to meet, and, in fact, that is how Altitude Project became involved with this school. During our trek to the Upper Dolpo in 2015, we had a rest day in the village of Saldang. I needed to charge a camera battery and was told the only electricity in the village was at the school. While the battery was charging, I met Kunsang, one of the teachers and she offered me tea. Her husband, Pema, soon joined the conversation and they advised me that the Germans had been through the village the month prior and told them they would not have sufficient funds for 2016.
They asked if I could help…. We exchanged email addresses and I carried on with the trek and didn’t give it much more thought. When I was back in Canada, I received and email message from them at New Year’s wishing me good health and happiness and asking if I could help… That was the moment that I decided to step off the sidelines and see if, in fact, I could help. And to my great surprise and delight, so many friends, and friends of friends, responded with kindness and generosity that we raised $13,500 that first year.
The village of Saldang is home to 1000 people and typically has 75 students from kindergarten to Class 6. The school is operated by 9 teachers with a support staff of 3; a cook, a nanny for the young children, and a maintenance worker. Most of the staff lives at the school during the school year. The annual operating cost of the school is $25,000 US ($33,000 CAD).
Each year Shelter108 accepts 4 students with qualifying grades from Saldang. Several former students who have graduated from school in Kathmandu have returned as teachers to to Saldang School. One has returned as a nurse to start a health clinic.
Saldang School Gallery
From Nyima Bhuti – first graduating class of Saldang School and daughter of Tulku – great Lama at Komas.
“Saldang School is very, very important, it opened the light in my life. I am very grateful to the people who supported my studies. The only way I could give back to those supporters was to work as a teacher in Komas, my village in the remote mountains, a full days walk east of Saldang.”
Update – Nyima finished her bachelor degree in social work in 2016 and is planning to start her masters level in 2017.
She is helping support the 23 students from Komas who are currently finishing their higher education in Kathmandu.