MECO Group helps Education in Nepal
MECO Group Claims Executive Tomas Ling travelled to Nepal in November 2017 to participate in the Yak Attack Mountain bike race. While there, he was able to visit the newly rebuilt school in the village of Chandi Bhanjyang which had been destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes that struck Nepal. The MECO Group have been involved in funding the rebuilding as Bhim Rana, the building manager for 65 Leadenhall Street, has a family connection to the community.
Tomas shares his experience below.
The school is located some 50 km south west of Pokhara, Nepal’s second city. Pokhara itself is set in an extraordinary location with the peaks of the Annapurna range towering above the city.
Although only some 50 km as the crow flies, the road journey from Pokhara to Chandi Bhanjyang takes six hours by four-wheel drive vehicle. Towards the village, the tarmac becomes gravel and then dirt, and the roughness of the road as well as the sheer cliff faces to the side of the road make driving very slow. Chandi Bhanjyang is a scattered community, spread over a large hill, with only a few community buildings, including now the school, at its centre. Education is improving quickly in Nepal generally, with the national 35% illiteracy rate falling fast.
My father, who had come to accompany and support me during the race, joined me on the two day visit to the school. We arrived in the evening and were given a rapturous welcome, including a meal of local curry and singing and dancing, accompanied by the Nepali Medal, a hand drum. The improvised lyrics, we were told, included the refrain “we may be poor but we are happy because some foreigners have come to visit our village”! We were told that we were the first ever foreigners to have been to Chandi Bhanjyang. We were honoured by the presentation of garlands of fresh flowers, a local tradition. The following morning, we visited a number of houses, some of which had also been destroyed and rebuilt in the earthquake.
We were welcomed to the school itself with a delightful parade by the school’s 70 pupils, aged between 4 and 11. We were introduced to the headmaster and teachers and given a tour of the new building. As yet unpainted, the school features four large class rooms and will be ready for use when decorated and furnished. Classes are currently being taught in various community buildings nearby and in some very temporary wooden structures. The school design has the capacity for extension and further building work may be carried out in future to accommodate more students. English was clearly given prominence in the curriculum, with even very young students learning to write English. We were impressed by the charm of the students, giggling as they tried to concentrate on their lessons despite the presence of their overseas visitors.
Having visited the village and the school, there is no doubt of the central importance of the school to village life. As one of the very few community buildings, the school provides a central focus for the village and a well built, permanent structure will better enable the students to flourish. One man who spoke to us, who had sailed on commercial ships after leaving the Gurkhas, told me of his fond memories of his childhood at the old Chandi Bhanjyang school.
Hopefully, the new Chandi Bhanjyang primary school will provide equally fond memories for the generations of pupils to come as well as providing for their educational needs and enabling them to flourish.
It is often said that you go to Nepal for the mountains but return for the people. The mountain scenery is truly extraordinary but the charm and sensitivity of the local people, together with the powerful spirituality of their ancient culture, are what have stayed with me the most in my memories of this fantastic adventure. I long to return.