Photo Essay: The Cost of Education in Rural Nepal

By Owen S. Jordan

In the town of Dhading Besi, Nepal, friends greet one another as dā’ī (brother) or didī (sister)—if you are a friend, you are family. Brightly painted houses reflect the colors of people’s clothing. Last month I traveled to Dhading Besi to visit a friend and his children’s home. I arrived in the middle of rice harvest season and the Diwali festival, which gave me the chance to experience many of the landlocked country’s cultural traditions. Along with the community, we shared delicious food like dal bhaat, momos, sel roti, and maacha (fried fish from the nearby river, pictured below).

In this region, crops like rice, potatoes, and millet sustain communities. But outside of these Nepali staples, another asset is in short supply. 

With a 67.9 percent literacy rate (compared to 99 percent in the United States), the people of Nepal are hungry for accessible education. But in remote villages miles high in the mountains, with little to no road access and the threat of tigers appearing during your two-hour climb to school, it’s tough to get attend school. This was the story of my friend Babin. Though he now lives in the town of Dhading Besi, he grew up in a rural village high on a mountain and deep in a jungle. During our time together, he told me of how, every day, he hiked further up the mountain to reach school, sometimes seeing tigers, sometimes trekking through inclement weather. Still, Babin persevered. 

After finishing his schooling he attended seminary in Kathmandu. It was there that God broke his heart for children who experienced similar obstacles to receive an education. After he graduated from seminary and married his wife Gita, the two moved back to Babin’s home district, where they founded Faith Foundation Nepal in 2004. The organization serves the poor, unwanted, and orphaned children of Dhading Besi. Babin and Gita have created a children’s home to give kids a secure, loving upbringing—complete with a holistic education. Despite the trauma of their pasts, the children at Faith Foundation Nepal are thriving, eager for the opportunities that will allow them to grow up to repair broken systems, just like Babin.

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Children of Faith Foundation Nepal show their excitement about heading off to school.

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Babin and kids about to travel ten minutes to school on a motorcycle.

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Young girls in the remote Reed village cross a bridge above a valley on their commute to school.

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Girls hike up a steep slope on their way to school while an elder travels down to the village with supplies.

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A farmer carries vegetation and goats to the village.

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The remote Reed village, seen from above.

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A neighbor of Faith Foundation Nepal ties rice crops almost ready for harvest.

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A mother and daughter ask to have their photo taken.

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Gita mentors girls while roasting makai (corn) as a snack.

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A child sings at the top of a village in Benighat.

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Babin picks corn at his mother’s home deep in the jungle.

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Children in Reed village wait to receive a Bible and learn how to read God’s Word.

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Salyantar, the future location of a hydropower project that could dramatically boost Nepal’s economy but displace around 45,000 rural people.