At first glance, I was impressed with what Manjil and his team at Maya Universe Academy had accomplished in 6 short years. Considering the slow pace at which the Nepalese governmental offices and construction teams work at, the school has grown by leaps and bounds. The school now has registered classes up to Grade 6 along with 5 permanent buildings and 5 semi-permanent huts for the students’ needs.
I had flashbacks to my Social Studies lessons when I learnt that Maya had actively taken students from the ethnic minority groups of the local area and promoted integration among the local community. Ethnic discrimination is one of the major obstacles for the Nepalese society and initiatives like Maya are effective measures as they educate the children from a young age about the importance of equality.
Having grown up in Nepal, I thought I understood the local way of living here but Project Nepal has made me realise how narrow my perspective was. On the way to the Central school, I learnt that the ‘local bus’ was not only bumpy and bursting at the seams packed with people; it was also one of the 2 only buses that went up the hill each day. The basic needs we take for granted such as running water, shelter from nature and electricity (only whilst we were at the East branch of Maya) were sorely missed and appreciated during my stay in the rural areas of Nepal.
Whilst at the school, we were never far from the reality of the school’s poor fortunes. The old fashioned Volunteers’ House with little ventilation and non-adequate weather proofing was a reminder about the conditions of most houses in Nepalese villages. Two meals of daal, bhaat, tarkari (lentils, rice and curry) and a light lunch of beaten rice every day was a window into the world of the children’s eating habits and lack of nutrition.
As much as Maya has achieved, it cannot be stressed enough that they need more help. A lot more work needs to be done just to ensure the basics, such as permanent rooms for classes and consistent teaching staff throughout the year. These challenges are shared across the two other branches of Maya in other rural parts of Nepal as well. They are short on classrooms and teaching material and more investment needs to be made to fund their kickstart for sustainable sources of income – goat houses, chicken farms and medium scale farming. More needs to be done to improve healthcare for the hostel students and their level of care.
My experience with Maya has been enlightening. Now that I, and the team, have been here in person, we have a deeper understanding of Nepal and are better equipped to face the challenges presented at Maya school. I am looking forward to working together with the team at Maya, the local and international volunteers and especially the new Project Nepal committee for years to come.