This blog is about education. Many people have access to it. However, many don’t. This virtual space is dedicated to the latter. We sometimes take education for granted—I know I did for most of my life. But the reality is that many individuals around the world are denied access to education simply for being a member of a particular group, for being a certain gender, or for being poor. According to a U.N. report, approximately 70 million children around the world are not enrolled in school, with 18 million of them in South Asia. An additional 776 million adults, or 16% of the world’s population, lack basic literacy skills.
For example, take the Tharu, one of Nepal’s more than 100 ethnic groups. Until the early 1980’s, most Tharu children were working for landlords, instead of going to school. Because of their lower caste, they were discriminated against and exploited socially, economically and politically. Today, both bonded labor and child labor have been outlawed in Nepal, but former bonded laborers and their children continue to be marginalized and denied basic rights, including the right to education. This is where my summer adventure and the incredible work of a Tharu-led social movement and NGO called Backward Society Education (BASE) comes in.
As a Peace Fellow with The Advocacy Project, I will spend this summer working with BASE in southwest Nepal. At the moment, as I prepare to fly off to Kathmandu, I admittedly know very little about BASE, the Tharu and education in Nepal. In fact, I have never been to Nepal and do not speak Nepali (yet!). But as this summer is about education, I too, will be learning so much from the wonderful BASE team, who until now I have only exchanged emails with.
I have so many questions and am eager to seek out answers. BASE’s website announces “Compulsory and Quality Education as a Fundamental right for New Nepal.” Who does have access to education in Nepal? What factors exclude some segments of the population? Further, what was the old Nepal? And what processes of social change produced the new Nepal? What roles have children, minorities (such as the Tharu) and other marginalized communities played? And finally, how is BASE working to producing lasting social change? I know this summer will be filled with difficult challenges, amazing experiences, and, of course, a lot of learning. But I’m ready.
Let my education in Nepal and education for all begin now!
Posted By Adrienne Henck
Posted May 29th, 2010