Impact of Mikey Medium English School on the community of Bauniya, Far Western Nepal
The Pressing Social Problem: With one-third of its population living below the poverty line, Nepal is one of the world’s least developed countries. For Nepali women, the situation is particularly dire: 50% of women older than 15 have no education. More than 40% between ages 20 and 24 were married before 18. Research shows that the rates of childhood marriage and poverty could be reduced through the education of girls, particularly education in English, which has become a critical link to employment and poverty reduction. According to the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association, 90% of jobs in Nepal require a command of English.
From Problem to Solution: With that as background, Ujjwal and Balraj Bhat of Bauniya in Far Western Nepal had a revolutionary vision. They wanted to provide a quality education for both boys and girls and ensure access to socially marginalized children. This went against the conventional thinking that girls should work the fields or care for siblings. The Bhats shared their dream with Mike Church, who was on a world-wide bicycle trek when he, by chance, met the Bhat family. Mike was moved to help, and he and his fiancée asked that wedding gifts be given as contributions to the Bhats’ school. Mikey Medium English School (MMES) was born.
While birthing the school was one thing, managing it, ensuring quality, supporting scholarships, hiring teachers, providing professional development, involving parents, and creating a sustainable framework for the future were entirely different matters. To achieve these goals Grassroots Education Nepal (GEN), a 501(c)3, was founded by Mike’s parents, Barbara and John Church, in 2010.
Our vision: a community where all children have access to quality elementary education in English literacy as a foundation for future opportunity.
This is an example of our success, as reported by our principal Balraj Bhat: “This year [school year 2020] our students who passed 8th grade from our school attended an entrance exam for future education in Computer Science. A total of 8 MMES students took the test. There were 48 scholarships and more than 100 students from different school took the test. All our students passed the test and our student, Paras Woli, stood first from all competitors. So he has got free scholarship from the school. (He was scholarship student at MMES) The principal and the parents congratulated everyone and thanked us for competing. After these 8th grade students pass the 12th class they will have good job opportunities and good life.”
Goals, Tracking, and Evaluation: When GEN was established, MMES had 48 students, kindergarten through class 2; three teachers; a rented concrete building; and no bathroom. Today, the school has over 500 students, pre-kindergarten through class 8; 25 staff members; 20 permanent classrooms; bathrooms; a computer lab; an early childhood learning center; and a small library-office. Initially, GEN supported all 48 students with full scholarships. Today, we provide 50 scholarships annually—half for girls—covering tuition, books and uniforms. As part of the sustainability plan, the remaining students’ families pay to cover the costs of attendance. To ensure community and parent involvement, a nine-member School Management Committee was established to work with the principal on planning and administrative decision-making.
Currently, many of the oldest students of the original 48 have finished high school and have college and professional aspirations. We solicited two independent evaluations of MMES in 2013 and 2018, and 15 volunteers who spent summers at the school submitted assessments to the GEN Board. These reports helped guide the GEN Board and the MMES School Management Committee in their oversight and support of the principal, Balraj Bhat.
Support from GEN: GEN has no paid staff. Rather, GEN founder Barbara Church (an experienced educator) and her husband, John, volunteer as chair and co-chair of the Board. The Churches have made 8 trips to Nepal to provide on-the-ground assessments and in-person guidance. They have facilitated connecting the school with area NGOs and public and private high schools for MMES graduates. For added support, 16 international volunteers have taught at the school and worked with the staff.
GEN is guided by its 14-member board focused on overseeing strategic planning, finances and administration. Two of the Board’s highest priorities are to ensure MMES has the means to educate as many impoverished children from Bauniya as possible and to put the school on a self-sustaining path. Since 2017, this goal has moved closer to reality with the construction of a larger school campus with three new buildings (and a fourth under construction), supported financially in part by GEN. The school’s size now makes it financially possible for tuition to cover operating costs and some scholarships. GEN’s financial support helps keep the scholarship level at 50 students.
Our 15 Year Impact for Mikey Medium English School
2008 ⇒ 2023
Student Body 48 ⇒ 520
Grades Kindergarten through Grade 2 ⇒
Preschool through Grade 8
Subjects Math, English, Nepali, General Knowledge ⇒
English, Math, Nepali, General Knowledge, Science, Health, Music, Social Studies
Classrooms 4 ⇒ 20+
Buildings 1 rented ⇒ 6 owned
Staff 3 untrained teachers ⇒
20 trained professional teachers, 4 teaching assistants, 1 accountant
NOTE: The COVID-19 crisis had major impacts on MMES and its ability to become self-sustaining.