The Ghunsa Village lies at 3,400m altitude in the remote Mechi Zone in the far East of Nepal in the Taplejung District, bordering India further to the East. Ghunsa is the highest permanent settlement in the valley, immediately to the north lies Tibet, which is accessed via 5,500 metre high passes.
In the side valleys surrounding Ghunsa numerous small family dwellings exist and it is estimated there are 120-160 children in the alpine areas. Many of these children live a number of days or hours walk from the Ghunsa School and are unable to attend school.
Another issue in the immediate area is schools of unsustainable size, for example the village of Gybla is not of sufficient size to (5 students) to support a quality education. When the quality of education deteriorates the parents often withdraw their children from school and thus the few available resources are reduced further due to lack of student numbers.
Quality of education is a real issue, which negatively impacts the parental and community for support for schools.
This HDFA Ghunsa Village Development plan is supported by six pillars, of which education is the initial focus. The six pillars are:
- Child Safety
- Environmental sustainability
- Economic Development.
Healthcare: HDFA is supporting community nurses to be trained and stationed at Ghunsa to offer medical support to the wider local area and the increased numbers of students. We have negotiated with the local district government to provide the base salary and medications for these staff, with HDFA assisting with top up supplies and annual training support. Over the first year a base line study will be undertaken to identify areas of health care that need most attention.
Economic Development: This is crucial to the future success of the region. HDFA has commissioned a website specifically to promote tourism in the area. The website will serve as a live virtual guidebook. It will deliver promotion of local tea-houses, guides and trekking companies, information on trails including times and an interactive map and trek planning tool, and availability of rooms at tea-houses. A similar approach has been implemented for tea-houses to advertise themselves on an information portal in the Manaslu Circuit area in central Nepal and has seen a three-fold increase in trekker numbers in only two years. We believe that by offering training for tea-houses workers and basic business/governance issues we can engage with the community and deliver other needed outcomes such as basic hygiene and health care under the auspices of tourism training.
Infrastructure: Education infrastructure will make education available to remote students for the first time and is outlined below. We have a medium term plan to roll out Wi-Fi in the region by partnering with a Nepalese organisation that has successfully delivered this transformational change in four other areas of Nepal.
We envisage that the internet will serve multiple objectives:
- engagement of children with the classroom
- online medical support to assist the community nurses
- online teacher support to deliver more engaging course work
- allow people to stay in their village and be connected
- take away the isolation factor in relation to relatives all over Nepal and the world
- improve commerce
- allow direct communications between sponsors and recipients.
Child Protection: Child relocation and forced removals are not prevalent in this area of Nepal. Although many young people leave to study in Kathmandu or India, this is done by choice. HDFA will monitor this concern in the area, and initial child protection issues are focused on mitigating health risks via improved accommodation, food and clothing, if appropriate.
Environmental Sustainability: The area is part of the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, and home to threatened species. Economic development poses a risk to environmental sustainability, and initially the project’s environmental focus is on limiting damage due to project activities (mainly building) and opportunities for reduced or improved resource use, and waste management.