Poverty creates challenges for students in Nepal but Red Panda Network supporters — led by a dedicated team of monthly donors — are making a difference with important education scholarships.
According to UNICEF, more than a third of Nepal’s 12.6 million children live below the national poverty line.
While significant progress has been made in Nepal’s education system — enrolment rates are 97% for primary school-age children and most communities in Nepal have a school — poverty can be a substantial deterrent to children excelling in school and advancing to secondary school and beyond.
Kidasha says that 45% of children in Nepal drop out before they reach secondary school.
Poverty contributes to dropouts among disadvantaged families who often need their children to work instead of attending school. Another obstacle for these students is the cost of school supplies.
The Red Panda Conservation Scholarships for Education program was started in 2019 to provide financial support and necessary school supplies to the children and siblings of Forest Guardians, as well as students from partner schools with Roots & Shoots Groups.
Scholarship recipients are selected based on merit by a committee of teachers (as well as a local leader and community members) and are available to students in grades six and seven. We distributed 94 scholarships in 2019: 45 students from the Panchthar, Ilam and Taplejung (PIT) corridor of eastern Nepal and 49 students in western Nepal’s Kalikot, Jumla, and Jajarkot districts.
One of these students is Sarmila Pariyar, a 13-year-old from Mahawai Rural Municipality of Kalikot district, western Nepal. Sarmila is from a low-income family where her mother is involved in cultivating crops and raising livestock and her father is a blacksmith.
Sarmila is a sixth-grade student at Shree Dev Secondary School in Mahawai Rural Municipality. She spends most of her time looking after her two younger sisters and helping her mother with household chores. She loves Deuada, which are indigenous songs and dance from western Nepal. Sarmila first became engaged in red panda conservation through her school's eco-club activities—
"All of the eco-club members, including me, relish to write poems, stories, essays and draw art to portray the importance of conservation on the red panda bulletin," shared Sarmila during an interview with Red Panda Network (RPN) Conservation Officer, Dinesh Ghale.
The Red Panda Bulletin Sarmila is referring to is part of RPN’s youth outreach and education initiatives. We work with students of Roots and Shoots Groups and eco-clubs who publish a Red Panda Bulletin every three months. They collect stories, poems, songs, and artworks related to red pandas (and other wildlife) from other students — under the supervision of a teacher — and publish them in the bulletin. The goal of this activity was to educate and engage students in wildlife conservation.
"Undoubtedly, the perception of wildlife conservation among students has changed for the better in recent years," said Sarmila. “I will surely be involved in future conservation events by RPN.”
Being born into a poor family, Sarmila’s family is not able to support her education. She is very grateful to RPN for the scholarship and for providing important educational materials such as notebooks, pens, geometry sets, and book bags.
“This is like our festival gift," added Sarmila with a cheeky grin.
RPN’s goal is 116 scholarships in 2020.
The education scholarship program is an example of RPN’s multi-tiered approach to conservation that enhances local livelihoods while educating communities and fostering red panda stewardship. These programs are made possible by RPN members, partners, and a dedicated group of monthly supporters we proudly call Panda Guardians.
"The scholarship program is new for the students of our project area and it has helped them to be motivated and engaged in red panda conservation. The program is highly appreciated by the local council members. I see this as the start for creating future conservation leaders who will take responsibility for protecting the environment", commented Sunil Banatawa to Dinesh. Sunil is the Executive Director of the Deep Jyoti Youth Club (DJYC); DJYC is our field partner in Panchthar district of eastern Nepal.