The CAIRN Trust monitors both the schools we have built and the students who receive Educational Awards (CEA's) to ensure that both projects are meeting the needs of the children and their village communities. Through this monitoring process we have found that in some cases, sending a child to school is still not enough and occasionally more help is needed. In most cases the children who require additional support come from the most destitute families and are either orphans, child labourers, have lost one parent and are living with a surviving parent/grandparent, who unable to care for them. In some cases there is the added factor of alcoholism within the family.
We have seen that due to poverty levels amongst some of our CEA recipients' families, students are still required to labour both before and after school to make ends meet. This makes studying and completing homework physically and mentally challenging, if not impossible, for some CEA students. Other students often go to school without any breakfast, having to concentrate all day on an empty stomach, looking forward to their one meal at the end of the day. Both these factors have a knock on effect to the students' attendance and long term to their school performance.
Also, high poverty levels within rural communities often means that the general health and well being of some of our CEA students is often over looked by families. As all medical treatments must be paid for, poor health is one of the most common contributing factors to low school attendance amongst CEA students. Examples of students who have required medical support have included treatment for malnutrition as a result of poor diet, typhoid treatment and identification and long term medical support for epilepsy and rickets. Left untreated, these medical conditions can cause irreversible, long lasting damage to our students' future.
Most of our students have either attended school irregularly or started school at a late age and are thus academically behind for their age. This is especially more evident in students who were in the latter years of their education, i.e. grades 8-10. These students were keen to do well at school as seen in their attendance but needed additional help academically.
There are over 60 million abandoned children and infants in the world today.
(UNICEF, The Increasing Vulnerability of Children In Nepal, 2002)
What is The CAIRN Trust Doing?
The concept of the CAIRN Communities encompasses a group of smaller projects that addresses some of the challenges above. The projects seek to identify the best method of support to ensure that the children within our educational communities can continue with their education in their villages around family and friends. By achieving this, we can also reduce the migration of children to the towns, where they usually are forced into child labour or into institutions.
As each child is an individual, often the solutions are also individual to ensure that the health, safety and care of any such vulnerable children are met. Working through our implementation partners in Nepal, social workers support and monitor the progress of the children on the CAIRN Communities programme.
Currently the projects that are covered by the Communities programme include:
Emergency Food Packs
These are monthly food packs that provide destitute families with a basic supply of rice, lentils and oil. Although we recognise that this is only a short term solution, it offers those families who are really on the brink of survival, an opportunity to have food whilst we identify a more sustainable solution. To date, seven families have received support through the Emergency Food Packs Programme.
Treatment of medical needs, especially if identified early on, can often be inexpensive but can have profound effects on a child's well being and future. The medical funds cover a host of treatments ranging from vitamin supplements to students suffering from malnutrition through to supporting a student through a prosthetic eye surgery operation. We now also fund a hostel in the local town where students can be cared for whilst receiving treatment, allowing them to make a complete recovery. To date, 20 students have received support through the medical funds project.
We are trialling tuition classes to CEA students in the second year of the programme onwards and who are in grades 8-10, as a way to improving their academic success. Classes in English, Maths and Science are provided three times a year by the school teachers in preparation for the students' end of year exams. We look forward to seeing an increased number of our CEA students passing their School Leaving Certificates as a result of this project. Currently 100 students are receiving tuition classes during this academic year.
Income Generation Programmes
As a way of providing a more long term, sustainable solution to the poverty levels amongst some of our families, we have started a goat breeding income generation scheme. Families have received training on breeding goats and their general welfare and support in building goat sheds. Families have the option to pay back the 'loan' by either breeding goats or selling the meat from the goats. We are excited that this will mean that eventually these families can stop receiving the monthly food packs and be more sustainable. Currently 19 families are on the goat breeding programme.
Having worked now across six rural communities, the main challenges facing our students seem to be similar. In the future we will continue to monitor the progress of both the children in our schools and those receiving the educational support to ensure they are able take full advantage of their education and provide any additional support required.