Somewhere in Nepal

Hope in the chaos after the abolition of the monarchy in 2009 – an elite school opens for the poor children of the region.

Bright Future – The name of this school focuses on hope vs. fatalism. Nepal, the destination of early dreams, has now been reached. Memories come back to me like a sprinkling on landing in Kathmandu: James Hilton’s „Lost Horizon“ or Lobsang Rampa’s „The Third Eye“,; Shangri-La, the unknown refuge, or Mustang, the mysterious kingdom of Lo, which for a long time resisted all tourism.

In addition, memories of Tiziano Terzani’s first idealizing and then, checked by reality, more skeptical reports in the „Spiegel“ about Nepal

All this is in my head when I arrive at Kathmandu International Airport. This is where the educational trip of the Schulleitungsvereinigung NRW begins, initiated by our tour guide Narayan and the Freundeskreis Nepal from Münster.

The entrance hall of the capital airport corresponds to that in a remote region as well as the handling of the entry formalities without computers by bored staff. According to incomprehensible criteria, the disorderly crowd pushes its way through the narrow passages. Only the collection of the visa fee proceeds quickly. The welcoming committee of the school, however, exceeds all expectations of a colorful and cheerful Nepal. Adorned girls in the red national costume, the boys in the suit and tie of the school uniform, welcome us with beaming faces. A banner is unfurled, and we are draped with garlands of flowers and yellow scarves and given a warm welcome. This is  a touch of picturesque paradise at the foot of the Himalayas.

It is hot and the air is stuffy. The school bus will take us to Naikap, a district in the western outskirts of Kathmandu. The mood on the bus, together with the children, is cheerful, and they are curious about us – who knows what their teachers have told them, and we about them. The cameras have especially provided the children with the possibility to see each other immediately and this has taken the children’s fancy. When they look out of the window, however, this recedes, and the illusions of the ideas they brought with them evaporate.

Kathmandu lies under a smog bell in a cauldron from which smog cannot escape; smog from fossil fuels, stinking cars, trucks and countless mopeds. Before the elections, the „Maoists“ had given mopeds to all young men, not without success on the result of the election. You can see them everywhere.  How one can live here without getting a respiratory illness remains a mystery – a cocktail of vitamin D and turmeric is supposed to keep us stable. The first pictures that pass us by are hard to bear. Dirt and poverty, chaotic traffic and a dust-laden ugliness, wherever you look. On the streets, rich in potholes, everyone is constantly jolted and grabs bars and pads. Only near the government quarter does this change – instead, one looks at watchtowers and soldiers with machine guns on mounts in the middle of the city. A sure sign of violence coupled with fear, after the abolition of kingship, now ruling here are the so-called „Maoists“.

The school bus stops in Naikap, a village-like district on the outskirts of Kathmandu, with no roads. There are sand and stone paths in a brown, burned and parched landscape. It hasn’t rained here in months, and everyone is eagerly awaiting the monsoon. We climb up the path to the shaman center where we will stay for the next few days. Again, such a warm welcome, especially from Mohan Rai, the supreme shaman of Nepal, which makes us forget everything around us. Mohan Rai is the founder and director of the „Shamanistic and Research Center“ and supports the school and sponsorship project in Naikap.

The house is simple. We live in simply furnished two-bed chambers and settle in. Here we have to do as much as possible in daylight. The „Maoist“ government allows only four hours of electricity, and that in each district one after the other. One never knows exactly when the time will come. Sometimes you have electricity from 1 – 4 a.m. when everything is asleep, sometimes during the day. Lighting at night is a surprise affair without a generator, but with candles and kerosene lamps. These candles on the steps when we climb up to the roof to enjoy the light wind against the heat are an unusual sight for us. Its almost romantic, if it were not so miserable and a testimony to the stupidity of a government that will not create jobs in this way. Here it seems that the discrepancy between responsible governance and the simultaneous continuation of sabotage and a scarce economy is neither understood nor even resolved , and it remains a fear of a further decline of the country .

In a first meeting we will be informed about the status of the projects, namely the sponsored child program with school scholarships and the new school building. Impressive work has been done here in recent years. Despite all the skepticism towards organizations, a private initiative is successful here, in which commitment, cordiality, intelligence, organizational skills and lack of attitude form a combination that creates sustainability and allows us to expect further positive developments

Word of our arrival has spread and everywhere we are greeted with a heartfelt Namaste, hands are joined and faces are turned towards us. This Namaste will accompany us for the next few days, and it is no empty phrase. It expresses open-mindedness and joy. So much radiance, lightheartedness and joy in the children makes us happy too. Only in the faces of many adults does the distress shows show – even if they don’t really want to show it. We drive to the Bright Future School, where we are accompanied by hundreds of namastei and led through a line of parents, children and teachers to the school’s meeting place. We sit under a large sun awning, and on a small stage we follow the welcoming speech of the principal Daya Ram Thapa as well as a skillful sequence of music and dance, which impresses us greatly. This also shows the special nature of this school, which is one of the winners in all competitions in Asia. 

Much applause and then more dance performances follow. We are brought on stage and everything ends in the common dance. Only now do we realize that this celebration lasted almost 4 hours. 

In another solemn moment, the school partnership, a teacher and student exchange with the Dieter-Forte-Gesamtschule in Düsseldorf, is sealed by signatures and the exchange of certificates. 

The next day is office hours. Mothers come with their children to get a sponsorship to attend the Bright Future School. Interviews are conducted, photos are taken and in the end there are

12 new sponsored children who will be able to go to this school with a full day and school lunch starting next week.  They are now allowed to go to this school with other children and young people whose parents can pay the school fees themselves and for whom education and being fed is a matter of course. In connection with this, efforts are being made to find housing for the families of the sponsored children. They often come from the corrugated iron huts next to their workplace in the brick factory.  Only in this way can the prerequisites for healthy and future-oriented development become possible. The children are the future of the country, because without education there is no future. This is the concept of the Circle of Friends. The school attendance of the girls and boys is coupled with the participation of the mothers in the evening school. Here they learn to read and write and gain access to information. Women gain more dignity and emanicpation because of this help. Three hundred mothers take part in this evening school. We visit the families of the sponsored children and check whether everything is as agreed and whether the money, which is paid for special purposes in addition to the school fees, such as medication for serious illnesses, is being used as planned. 

Back from the home visits, the experiences are exchanged, reports are written, and the tasks for the next day are distributed. The doctors of the Circle of Friends report on their visits to the sick and their consultations in the open air and in courtyards.

The next morning is a construction meeting. The school must be rebuilt. A new highway decreed by the „Maoists“ without consideration for the school makes the way to school life-threatening and takes away the school’s space.  The new school is closer to the neighborhood, the land is leased on a long-term basis and is especially important in this area: it is to be built earthquake-proof. There is enough space for adjacent sports facilities, as well. Everything looks good. Now everyone is waiting for the monsoon to start, because without water – as is the case now in the drought – it is impossible to build. And there is another hurdle. The „Maoists“ want to collect 25% taxes from everything. The line is clear: there are no donations with a deduction -this is This is also a program of the association, just as  no cent of the donations go into administration costs.

Relocations of two families are on the agenda. The visit to the families of the new godchildren has partly revealed frightening living conditions. There are rooms or shacks with rolling grills for 4 people without daylight, electricity, water and toilets – it is hard to believe how one can live there, hard to believe how the families manage to feed their children and send them into the world so clean and neat. With the help of the shaman we succeed in renting rooms that allow a dignified living. In addition, there is a basic purchase for the start according to a list of basic food for the next few weeks. A discussion about the so-called „drop in the bucket“ is not to be understood. Even just bringing a family back to life, allowing a child to learn, is worth every effort.

One last image as we say goodbye is imprinted on our minds. We had only noticed in passing that we did not see any children playing ball. A soccer ball and a net of other balls are given to the children in the morning, and as we board the minibus that takes us to the airport, we see a gaggle of boys who have created a field with goals, playing soccer so enthusiastically that they do not notice our departure.

(c) Dr.Burkhard Mielke. All rights reserved.

All pictures © by Burkhard Mielke, all rights reserved, commercial and private use prohibited.

English translation editor : Dr. Marilyn C. Terranova, NY

Veröffentlicht von

Dr.Mielke Burkhard

Dr.Burkhard Mielke Ich bin pensionierter Schulleiter, Jahrgang 1943, und lebe in Berlin. Mein Werdegang: - Studium der Romanistik an der Universität zu Köln und Sport an der deutschen Sporthochschule Köln, - Promotionsstudium zum Dr.phil, - Ehrenprofessur der Normal University Shanghai, - Vorsitzender der Schulleitungsvereinigung NRW und bis jetzt Geschäftsführer dieses Verbandes. Ehrenpräsident der Europäischen Schulleitervereinigung ESHA, Board Member der Weltschulleiterorganisation ICP. Mein Hauptinteresse neben und auch in meinem Beruf waren Engagements im Bereich internationale Beziehungen - Organisation von Schüleraustausch und Partnerschaften, Mein Hobbies waren und sind Reisen und die Photographie, um die Welt zu entdecken und ihre Schönheit festzuhalten.

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