Home Education Nepal: Football training helps girls stay in school

Nepal: Football training helps girls stay in school

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Girls in grades 9 and 10 play football during break time at Thangpalkot’s secondary school. The team was established when volunteers from Coaches Across Continents (CAC) came to do workshops on health and social issues at the school. The team has helped keep girls enthusiastic about coming to class, and they share pitch time with the boys.

 

Thangpalkot, April 28, 2016: High up in the Himalayas of Nepal, one school is using football to empower girls. Since the powerful 7.9 earthquake last year, humanitarian organisations working in Nepal have noted that “concerns have been raised” that more girls and women are being trafficked for both sex and labour (PDF) to help support their families.

Thangpalkot is located in the mountains of Sindhupalchowk province. On a normal day, it takes at least eight hours on muddy, narrow mountain roads to reach Thangpalkot from Kathmandu by car. After the earthquake, only helicopters could reach some of these remote villages.

Sindhupalchowk has one of the highest trafficking rates of any of Nepal’s seven provinces, according to social workers from the non-governmental organisation Childreach Nepal working in the region. Poor infrastructure, poverty, and a desperate lack of opportunity force many families to send their teenage children abroad to earn a living, making them easy targets for traffickers.

The primary and secondary schools in Thangpalkot serve a collection of small villages grouped alongside the single track road that snakes up the mountains. In the past, education hasn’t been a priority for most families in the area because of poverty.

One school, run by Childreach Nepal, is using football as a way of keeping children in school.  With the help of Coaches Across Continents, boys and girls are not only getting fired up for the game, but they are also excited to show up to class. The sport has put up a surprising defence against trafficking.

Thangpalkot district is a collection of small villages dotting the mountains north of Kathmandu.
Thangpalkot district is a collection of small villages dotting the mountains north of Kathmandu.

 

Sindhupalchowk was hit hard by the April 2015 earthquake, and was the site of the largest aftershock that May. Many buildings are still in a state of disrepair, and some villages report that they have yet to see any aid workers or government officials.
Sindhupalchowk was hit hard by the April 2015 earthquake, and was the site of the largest aftershock that May. Many buildings are still in a state of disrepair, and some villages report that they have yet to see any aid workers or government officials.

 

Dolma, 14, is in 9th grade at the Thangpalkot secondary school. She lives with her uncle on the other side of the mountain. After her father left her mother for not having any sons, the family had to figure out a way to make ends meet. Dolma’s mother and sisters went to Delhi to find work, leaving Dolma behind to live with relatives. 'I don’t have any parents,' she says.
Dolma, 14, is in 9th grade at the Thangpalkot secondary school. She lives with her uncle on the other side of the mountain. After her father left her mother for not having any sons, the family had to figure out a way to make ends meet. Dolma’s mother and sisters went to Delhi to find work, leaving Dolma behind to live with relatives. ‘I don’t have any parents,’ she says.

 

Dolma joins up with three classmates on the 45-minute walk to school. Dolma explains how girls are expected to go 'abroad' for work after 10th grade, when they’re about 16-years-old. She and other girls in her district are worried about the possibility of being trafficked as they get older.
Dolma joins up with three classmates on the 45-minute walk to school. Dolma explains how girls are expected to go ‘abroad’ for work after 10th grade, when they’re about 16-years-old. She and other girls in her district are worried about the possibility of being trafficked as they get older.

 

Dolma walks through several villages on her way up the mountain. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of homes in Sindhupalchowk were built from mud-bonded bricks and many were destroyed in the earthquake. Many families are still living in temporary shelters. Most don’t have the means to rebuild, and worry that if they begin before government officials see the damage, they will not receive compensation.
Dolma walks through several villages on her way up the mountain. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of homes in Sindhupalchowk were built from mud-bonded bricks and many were destroyed in the earthquake. Many families are still living in temporary shelters. Most don’t have the means to rebuild, and worry that if they begin before government officials see the damage, they will not receive compensation.

 

Instead of rebuilding, many families have transitioned into temporary structures made of corrugated tin siding and tarps. There is an expression in the area that “families with tin roofs have sent a daughter abroad and those who don’t have tin roofing simply haven’t sent their daughters away yet.” The implication being that if your daughter is away earning, you can afford a tin roof.
Instead of rebuilding, many families have transitioned into temporary structures made of corrugated tin siding and tarps. There is an expression in the area that “families with tin roofs have sent a daughter abroad and those who don’t have tin roofing simply haven’t sent their daughters away yet.” The implication being that if your daughter is away earning, you can afford a tin roof.

 

One month after the earthquake, the school restarted. The principal says that students were reluctant to return to school after the quake, fearing that it wasn't safe. The visible cracks in the building, the stairwell, and the cement soccer pitch where the girls play, act as constant reminders that the rebuilding has a long ways to go.
One month after the earthquake, the school restarted. The principal says that students were reluctant to return to school after the quake, fearing that it wasn’t safe. The visible cracks in the building, the stairwell, and the cement soccer pitch where the girls play, act as constant reminders that the rebuilding has a long ways to go.

 

A year after the earthquake, and pupils are still learning in open classrooms with tarpaulins for walls and tin sheeting for roofs. Even in winter, pupils sit outside, bundled up in their warmest jackets and hats, trying to study. Beyond the partial wall that is still standing are cinderblocks, stacked and waiting to be a part of the new classroom walls.
A year after the earthquake, and pupils are still learning in open classrooms with tarpaulins for walls and tin sheeting for roofs. Even in winter, pupils sit outside, bundled up in their warmest jackets and hats, trying to study. Beyond the partial wall that is still standing are cinderblocks, stacked and waiting to be a part of the new classroom walls.

 

'Sport has helped keep the girls coming to school,' says the school principal. In Nepal, the national dropout rate for girl pupils is 36.2 percent.
‘Sport has helped keep the girls coming to school,’ says the school principal. In Nepal, the national dropout rate for girl pupils is 36.2 percent.

 

onica, 14, is in the 9th grade and walks 25 minutes to and from school each day in Thangpalkot. She started playing football this year and became excited about the sport while playing CAC games about girls' empowerment. 'My favourite subject is science,' Monica says. 'Science broadens our minds … I want to be a civil engineer when I grow up because our country is mostly affected by the earthquake so I want to help build it again.'
Monica, 14, is in the 9th grade and walks 25 minutes to and from school each day in Thangpalkot. She started playing football this year and became excited about the sport while playing CAC games about girls’ empowerment. ‘My favourite subject is science,’ Monica says. ‘Science broadens our minds … I want to be a civil engineer when I grow up because our country is mostly affected by the earthquake so I want to help build it again.’

 

The cement football pitch goes right up to the edge of the mountain, with a steep drop beyond. When the girls play, their male classmates line the edge of the pitch to keep the ball from tumbling down the mountain. When the ball inevitably does goes over, another ball is thrown into the game while a boy scampers down the mountainside to fetch the lost ball.
The cement football pitch goes right up to the edge of the mountain, with a steep drop beyond. When the girls play, their male classmates line the edge of the pitch to keep the ball from tumbling down the mountain. When the ball inevitably does goes over, another ball is thrown into the game while a boy scampers down the mountainside to fetch the lost ball.

 

A football player stands on the reinforced edge of the soccer pitch looking after a long fallen football, a few hundred feet below in the terraced fields of Thangpalkot.
A football player stands on the reinforced edge of the soccer pitch looking after a long fallen football, a few hundred feet below in the terraced fields of Thangpalkot.

 

Dolma, right, works on an assignment with three classmates, all of whom play on the football team. The Coaches Across Continents curriculum includes games that cover trafficking, HIV, and other social issues.
Dolma, right, works on an assignment with three classmates, all of whom play on the football team. The Coaches Across Continents curriculum includes games that cover trafficking, HIV, and other social issues.

 

The entire girls' football squad poses for a group shot in front of their school.
The entire girls’ football squad poses for a group shot in front of their school.

 

By Jennifer Ciochon