A better future for the children of Nepal one school at a time
In November 2019, our staff began work at Shree Saraswati Balkalyan Secondary School. Located about one hours’ drive from our nearest Welfare Centre in Damak, the school was familiar to the team, with the Trust having built a small extension there back in 2015.
The school was originally established in 1980/81 with classes up to grade three. At present, the school has classes up to grade 12, with over 870 students attending regularly. Unfortunately the school’s original buildings had not held up well following the earthquakes in 2015 and subsequent monsoon seasons.
Our dedicated staff
The project was overseen by experienced Gurkha Welfare Trust Project Supervisor Mohan Sharma Rupakheti. The task sent him far from home, and throughout construction he lived nearby, sharing a room with the school’s storekeeper:
“The project site is 970kms away from home and it is a 28-hour nonstop journey by public vehicle. There was always a challenge that I would not be able to get home immediately if there was an emergency in the family. But I knew I had to perform my duty.
“During the ten months of the construction period, I was only able to visit my family once, in February, as my second child was born. I stayed at home for two weeks and then returned back to site.”
• Two brand new blocks with eight classrooms in each
• A new gender-separate toilet block with six cubicles and menstrual hygiene facilities
• An incinerator
• A compound wall to keep the younger children safe
• 100 new desks and chairs, bookshelves, 16 new computers, new carpets throughout and other soft furnishings
• A refurb of the GWT-built library and canteen
• Redecoration of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) block
The challenge of COVID-19
The build was finally completed by the end of August 2020, slightly behind the target date of June.
“The main challenge of the build was our time frame itself […] We did have a schedule in place, but midway, the COVID pandemic arrived.”
“As a result, our construction project was totally suspended from 22 Mar to 11 May. My team of skilled labourers were brought from different parts of Nepal and we had to arrange for them to get home as quick as possible (the lockdown was effective from 24 Mar).
“Construction finally resumed from 12 May but I had to arrange labourers locally and they were slightly slower. I was finally able to extract some of the skilled labourers that had gone home and we arranged for a team of 20/25 people to stay on site together, cook and eat together in order to prevent ourselves the risk of exposure to COVID. “We were able to complete the construction and finally handover the building to the School Management Committee on 20 August 2020.”
Mohan’s dedication and passion for his work was recognised this year by our Chairman, Lieutenant General Richard Wardlaw OBE, receiving a commendation for his efforts at our annual conference.
The impact of a new school
The impact of the new school building to the children who go there and the local community will be huge. Premkumar Rai is a former student at the school who now works there full-time:
“I think the most important aspect of education is ‘environment’ and ‘motivation’. The new building will provide excellent environment. These classrooms will motivate students to attend classes and study. This will help the overall development of students. Social, mental, cultural and educational development. This will help them achieve it.
“To the GWT, the generous donors from UK and all the veterans, I would like to offer them a handful of flowers of respect that never wither.”
What’s next for Mohan?
For Mohan, the end of the project is bitter-sweet. Though he gets to return home, he always finds it hard to leave his projects:
“I was very happy as I was involved, literally, in the construction process from the start to finish, every step of the way. For me, the feeling was like raising/nurturing your daughter with much love and care; and letting her go from you when she is grown and gets married.
“I will miss the locality and the school staff as I stayed there so long and got to know so many people.”
That said, he’s pleased the next one is a little closer to home:
“I have now been deployed to the GWT Welfare Centre in Bheri to look after the 100 earthquake-resilient home builds this year. This time, the workplace is very near to my home. In fact, it is just a 5 min ride on a motorcycle!”