Shanti Primary School is the oldest school of Yangshila in Morang district, established in 1961. Situated at exactly 1420 meters above sea level in Maharaje village, it sits at the heart of the biodiversity-rich Chure region, on a saddleback ridge, adjacent to an 830-acre sub-tropical pangolin cloud forest, where the Vertical University project was first imagined.
During the 2015 earthquake, Shanti Primary School, which operates from Nursery to Grade 5, was badly damaged. The northern wing became a pile of rubble and the southern wing suffered structural damage. Without an alternative, the teachers had to continue teaching there. When the community approached KTK-BELT and the Phul Maya Foundation to help, we saw it as an opportunity to create a brand new kind of educational space which was carbon neutral and deeply integrated into the biodiversity-rich landscape surrounding the premises. By focusing on the youngest children, we could jumpstart the new generation to develop an ecocentric worldview, developing an environmental affinity from a very young age, linking the student experience to the Vertical University project itself.
Honoring our late Board Member Scott Skinner
In May 2019, KTK-BELT and Phul Maya Foundation decided to jointly raise funds for the Shanti School, which would be built in honor of Scott Skinner, a founding board member of both organizations, who devoted much of his life to education in rural Nepal, initially as a Peace Corps teacher in Dhankuta district in the 1960’s. As President of Phul Maya Foundation Scott built 6 schools in Nepal, funded scholarship programs for the children of single moms, and supported rural water projects for impoverished communities. Scott believed most in the power of education to uplift young people from poverty. Until his last days, Scott was trying to galvanize support for the Shanti School and raised the initial funds to create the compressed stabilized earth bricks which will be used to construct it. The school will comprise a green library space named in Scott’s memory. A scholarship program in honor of Scott will be endowed to provide funds for to the children of single mothers in the region to educate their kids.
Reshaping rural education for a sustainable future
Despite the richness of biodiversity and latent economic opportunities in the rich ecosystems of Nepal, rural youth are not made aware of the possibility of pursuing a professional course of study in biodiversity conservation. Many are forced to migrate to the Gulf, taking on dangerous, low-paying jobs from a young age. The breach between what is taught in the classroom and the agrarian lifestyle of the student is what is causing this exodus. Huge opportunities are missed to teach young people about the economic opportunities tied to conserving the flora and fauna around them . Such opportunities can be harnessed within the existing curriculum of Nepal which is quite progressive and which places emphasis on place-based education.
Shanti Primary School is just one of more than 29,000 Government schools in Nepal. However, it is emblematic of the greater potential of Nepal’s educational system to be unleashed in the direction of place-based ecological education. Activating this potential will be vital given the negative impacts of climate change, deforestation and increasing disasters in the rural countryside. Preparing young people for the huge challenges of water scarcity, increasing disasters and diminishing biodiversity through ecosystem-based adaptation, agroforestry and permaculture education, will be critical to their survival and wellbeing. Though this is just one school, it can serve as an inspiration to thousands of students, teachers and parents who would demand similar standards from their own school administrations.
As Shanti School is located in Maharaje, which has more than 250 species of rare trees, endangered pangolins, langurs, and black giant squirrel populations, the opportunities for ecological learning are off the charts. Additionally, KTK-BELT has established a bio-intensive organic farm with more than 150 varieties of herbs, vegetables, fruits and nuts, and a green playground, just a 15-minute walk from the school. The entire landscape can become a dynamic educational interface, where the farmers are professors and every plant, every tree, every rock, every stream is an opportunity for observational learning.
The goals of the project are three fold:
1. Building an educational space that can serve as a living laboratory to teach and demonstrate sustainable carbon-neutral architecture to the next generation.
2. Piloting a green school curriculum on native biodiversity in close conjunction with the Vertical University and the Vertical Farm Project.
3. Empowering local marginalized and unemployed youth in sustainable and safe construction along in collaboration in collaboration with Build Up Nepal
The school will be designed with flexibility in mind to accommodate not just the school activities but community activities as well. The complex will house four classrooms of 1600 sq ft and one multipurpose space of 400 sq ft and one office of 500 sq ft. A total of 2500 sq ft structure will be constructed around a courtyard space.
The school has 3 full-time government-appointed teachers and 1 pre-primary teacher supported by the CDC (Children Development Committee) Program, and one helper who serves as the school caretaker.
Man Bahadur Khatri, (SLC), Headteacher
ChitraMaya Rai, (Bachelors of Education)
Dambar Kumari Mahat (Pre-Primary Teacher)
Parvati Shrestha (Helper) (I. Com)
There are around 46 students (18 girls and 28 boys) currently. There is a possibility for the decline in students due to the poor condition of the school. Parents would prefer keeping their children in Shanti Primary School as a first choice if the new school is built. Half of the students live nearby, but the other half must travel from far away (as much as 2 hours away for students coming from Darlami Dada, Baaspati, and Satighat villages).
Construction & Materials:
Re-use of windows, doors and roofing
Use of compressed stabilised earth block construction
Community based labour recruitment process
Design and Pre-planning:
July 15, 2019: Design Phase completed
August 1, 2019: Submission for planning approvals, locally, regionally and nationally with the Ministry of Education and SWC (2 months anticipated)
September 1, 2019: Demolition of existing buildings
September 15, 2019: Production of CSEB bricks begins
September 15, 2019: Materials procurement, preparation and logistics
October 1, 2019: Construction Starts
June 1, 2020: Construction Complete and Inauguration
School facility construction cost (2500 sf): $50,000