The recently completed Shree Ganesh Education Centre – built with the support of The Migration Agency and Global Talent Agency’s FONA foundation – is a brand-new, architecturally designed school for 400 students in Sindhuli, Nepal. While on a recent trip to the school, our Managing Director Sarah Thapa caught up with the school nurse Asha who provides vital health education and services to students and the community.
Asha decided to become a nurse because she is a sensitive person who has always wanted to help others. After working for an international hospital in Kathmandu, Asha took up a community nursing role at The Shree Ganesh Education Centre.
What do you offer to the students in the school?
Each day we make the students stand in line and do some physical training, check their nails, teeth and their uniform as hygiene is such an important part of a student’s wellbeing. Many students at the school do not have running water or electricity in their homes, so it’s important we help them manage their personal needs.
Then, the students are sent to class. The government provides grade 1 to 6 students with an allowance so they can bring lunch from home. We try to encourage health food and avoid junk food.
When the new school building was built, I asked for a room for an infirmary, so the students would have a place to come when they were feeling unwell or needed to rest. Previously, the closed nurse’s clinic was a fair distance away from the school. This meant sick students had to travel 15 minutes to get help.
This new clinic within the school grounds has made it easier for the students to get medical attention. I am also hoping to provide more support to the broader community, to dispense medicines and treat medical conditions.
What is a common reason for students to come and see you?
The girls mostly come to ask for sanitary pads. Sometimes students come with cuts, scrapes, fever and headache. As a government school, we get 40,000 rupees a year from the local government and the sanitary pads come from the education department.
However, this is not enough to cover all of our needs. The most pressing need is for a pad dispenser, as well as more bandages, medicines and beds.
What do you think about living in the village and why do you think it is important to invest in education here?
I do try to teach the students about hygiene and washing their hands, however they learn this one day and the next day, they come to school with dirty clothes and hands. It is very difficult to educate the students on health, if the messages are not reinforced at home.
It is a challenge for people to get a quality education in a remote area like this, as there are so many traditions that people believe in. Mental health is not at the forefront and sometimes, it affects me as well.
I feel grateful that FONA is supporting our community, this makes us feel optimistic about the future.
What are the mental health challenges you are facing with the students?
Sometimes students come to school without eating and faint. In our society, we don’t talk about mental issues. So, one of the things we do is ask the student why they haven’t eaten.
I received 6-day mental health training from Kanti Hospital. As a result of this training, I know that I can ask a student why they haven’t eaten and if they are aware of anything happening around them. I would like to do more training to be better equipped to deal with the mental health challenges in our community.
My main source of support are the three school nurses in the area. We have a group chat in which we talk to one another. I can ask a question if I am unsure how to treat a condition.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Aside from nursing, I also teach health three classes a day. The curriculum was developed by the government for classes 6, 7 and 8. I also substitute for teachers if they haven’t come to school. I teach students in grades 8, 9, 10 and 11 about how to use sanitary pads and a few things about mental health.
I also talk about how early marriage is not good for children. This custom is still practised in some remote areas of Nepal and I encourage the students to instead complete their studies.
In the future, Asha would like to receive more health training. She also outlined that the government medicines budget is insufficient, especially when it comes to treatments for period pain, which are not listed as subsidised medicines.
Working under their foundation the Friends of Nepal Association (FONA), Sarah and Amit are looking forward to supporting Asha and other school staff. Having conversations about their reflections and resource needs is the start of this process.
If you would like to help support the health clinic at the Shree Ganesh school, please reach out to Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org. Currently, FONA is looking for sponsors for the health clinic. This would help fund professional development for workers such as Asha and to equip the clinic with medicines, beds and other supplies.