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blog : blog0004 : thulo dhading makes its decision (and a look at foreign aid)

krishna shah
june 27, 2015; saturday
12:15 nst (nepal standard time)

a lot of eyes were on the donor conference this week. the news portals had pictures of leonardo dicaprio as clickables which lead to the actual coverage of the conference that was held on thursday at hotel soaltee. whether he actually attended the conference or not, i don't know; but it definitely caught a lot of people's attention. maybe i should post a picture of leonardo dicaprio on the hoste hainse website. just kidding. :)

the government pdna (post disaster needs assessment) report i posted in my last blog entry, " blog0003: attarpur makes its decision ", summarizes that nepal needs about $7 billion to rebuild itself. the donor conference, which the prime minister dubs as having been highly successful, concludes with pledges of about $4.3 billion. our country's budget last year was about $6 billion. since all these numbers are too big to fit in my head, i need to pause right now and take a deep breath.

but more than the intensity of the numbers, i think what's more gut-wrenching is the thought of how much of this money is actually going to end up with/for the poor and needy? how much is going to end up as overheads in the form of aid worker salaries and land rovers? and most appalling, of course, how much money is going to end up in politicians' pockets? it's natural for a lot of nepalese to think this way because of our history, because of the undeniable fact that nepal is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. in nepal's defense, nepal is only the 49th most corrupt country in the world (out of 175 countries), according to transparency international; check out this article on npr published last december:

Which Countries Are The Most Corrupt?

emily troutman's article " Subcontracting kindness " which got published in the nepali times yesterday pretty much sums it all up -- what happens to foreign aid during disasters. she says, "Less than 1 per cent of global funding for earthquake relief will go directly to groups in Nepal." see for yourself:


[click to enlarge]

http://nepalitimes.com/article/nation/less-than-one-percent-of-global-funding-going-to-local-groups-nepal,2344

a longer version of this article can be viewed here: What Happened to the Aid? Nepal Earthquake Response Echoes Haiti. very interesting read, but long.

you might be thinking, "here goes another one complaining about the situation, but doing nothing about it." so, here's what we plan on doing, and furthermore, what we are already doing...

the four schools we are running in sarlahi, with currently over 1,600 students, have a budget of about $56,000. we have been running the schools for over 15 years, and have been boasting a 90%+ slc pass rate. hoste hainse is a small ngo run with the help of funding from people/organizations that stemmed from personal friendships (mainly my mother who founded the organization 25 years ago). we constantly work on making the schools we support self-sustainable, so that we can break away from donor funding and/or use that funding to start new ventures, branch out so to speak. apart from income-generation programs that include employment generation, the road less travelled is knocking on our government's door for support. since the schools we run are community schools and not private schools, they qualify for government funding. and after 15 years of continuous trying, the government finally contributed about $27,000 towards our schools in sarlahi last year. so, it is possible! perseverance did pay off. but it was a long and bumpy road. whether we will continue to receive funding from the government or not, we don't know, but we will keep trying.

thus, just like we received the $27,000 for sarlahi after 15 years, we plan to constantly knock on the government's doors to get a piece of the $4.3 billion.

it's going to suck, but we need to. because if we don't, that's like giving the government a license to embezzle the funds. asking for funding will go hand-in-hand with demanding transparency. for example, if the government says, "we do not have funding for you," we can ask, "what did you spend it on?" and the more people ask, the more momentum this movement will gain. i believe as nepalese citizens, it is our responsibility (not to mention right) to know what international aid "for the people" is being spent on.

the only thing is that lobbying on the government front will take time (and induce headaches), but we will not give up. and in order for our rebuilding programs to continue, we continuously need your support, but when you know that we're also constantly working on complementing this support behind the scenes, it will be a one up.

this is exactly the tone we had during our meeting with the thulo dhading school management committee chairperson, surya bahadur lama, who had come to kathmandu to visit us yesterday evening, about two weeks after we initially met him in his hometown. surya bahadur lama shared his experiences working with the government, the "jilla sikchya adhikari" (district education chief officer) who is not even from the district itself, but a mere bureaucrat appointed by the government, who has the power to decide how much public funding gets spent at which public schools in the district. and so everyone needs to be "nice" to the district education chief officer. things like these and other broken aspects of our public education system were on the forefront in an attempt to figure out how we can overcome them with constant lobbying and follow-up the same way we are going to demand a piece of the $4.3bln pie. the tone has been set.

so what decision did thulo dhading make? well, it was easier for thulo dhading to decide after attarpur made its decision. they had pretty much already decided after attarpur decided, but wanted some more time discussing it amongst themselves. thulo dhading went with the same decision as attarpur -- to start a new non-profit local community school supported by hoste hainse and its donors, so that every penny will be properly utilized, as opposed to providing funding to the government (who just received $4.3 bln) to run a broken system ( " blog0003: attarpur makes its decision " for details ). we are still, just like for attarpur, going to provide $5,000 per year in teacher support for the existing children at the government school in thulo dhading for them to pass out of the "iron gate," the slc (school leaving certificate). again, please read " blog0003: attarpur makes its decision " for comprehensive details.

now that strategic decisions have been made at both schools, the time has come to write a proposal (or rather, re-organize the ones we have already written). as a first step, land needs to be donated by locals for the school to run on. this land will go into the school's name and no one should be able to claim any rights over it in perpetuity. then, we explore building options/costs. finally, recurring costs to run the school, which will be significantly lower than the initial construction.

i will keep you posted every step of the way via this blog. feedback? am all ears -- krishna.shah @ hostehainse.org.

also, i better post this quick before my ups batteries completely drain. no electricity when i woke up this morning at 6am. it's 12 noon and still no electricity. load shedding was supposed to happen from 8am to 11am this morning. again, my government doing what it is best at. by the way, have already called "no light" but no one picks up the phone. maybe because its saturday? or did that one go when 197 and 198 also went earlier this month? the joys of living in nepal.




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