Nepal is a landlocked, geographically isolated strip of land stretched across the mighty Himalayas with India to the south and China to the north. The highest point on the planet, Mount Everest towers over Nepal and her 29 million inhabitants.
Nepal has always been considered a developing country, one of the poorest in the world outside of Africa. 55% of the population live below the international poverty line, making less than $1.25 a day. Suffering from chronic under-development and few opportunities, Nepal’s unemployment currently stands at 46%.
Nepal has experienced rapid political and social upheaval in the last two decades and just recently emerged from a brutal civil war waged by Maoists that has destroyed rural infrastructure and politicized schools. The insurgency has taken a particularly heavy toll on children, with thousands of orphans losing one of both parents and others being forced to fight. Many children are displaced, countless others traumatized. Although the insurgency is over, the political warring continues, as all parties fight over the drafting of a new constitution. In the midst of all this turmoil, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged of Nepal struggle to earn a meager living.
Girls, low caste, rural and poor youth all face limitations in trying to go to school. 60% of rural children drop out before fifth grade. While girls start primary school at almost the same rate as boys, they quickly fall behind, dropping out at faster rates than boys. Only 38% of girls make it to grade 5. Educating girls is a picture of frustration and limitation. Families with limited resources have to choose who to educate, and all too often girls stay home to do household work such as gathering grass or firewood, transporting water, washing laundry and cooking. In 2008, male literacy stood at 62%, while only 45% of women were literate.
The education system in Nepal is rigid and does not provide second chances. There are very few adult education opportunities, especially in the rural areas. Having dropped out, it is very difficult for adults to return to school or seek job training. Likewise, the hilly terrain limits infrastructure and the spread of technology. Only 1 in 100 people have ever used the internet. The changes brought about by technology is limited to the wealthy in urban areas, while students in rural villages have never seen a computer.