Laptops NEEDED: Connect children to a vast sky
Project by : Dolly Wong, Gloria Lai, Aimee Hui, Kailly Yu
Heaven Hill Academy is the first private school in Nepal to provide its students with subsidies, or even full sponsorships. Located in Gaunsahar, a small town in the mountains, the school provides low-income families and children from lower castes with quality education. Principal Shamser Thapa believes that every child deserves the chance to learn and to develop his, or her, potential. Shamser, who first used a computer at 26, knows that technology is the gateway to knowledge for his students, and that knowledge will give his students more options in planning their lives and careers. Yet, Heaven Hill Academy only has one computer.
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." Shamser and we believe that providing children with education is the way out of poverty and the beginning of a better life. Introducing more laptops is one of Shamser's plans to improve the school.
You can help Shamser provide a more enriching learning environment for the children of Heaven Hill. You can help the children of Heaven Hill broaden their horizons.
Can you imagine life without smartphones and computers? Neither can we. But for most of Nepal, that is life. According to statistics by the Nepalese government, as at 2011, only 7 per cent of the nation's families own computers—and more than half do not have internet access. Over at Heaven Hill, where there is only one computer, students have to take turns to use the device—for a mere three minutes at a time—that's how long you spend on looking for a project on this website, and, 1/60 of the average time Hong Kong people spend on the internet daily.
Yet, for two children, these three minutes have changed their lives. Here's how:
- Dipson—The Boy Who Dreams of Becoming an International Wrestling Champion
During English class one day, we asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most of them said they wanted to be doctors, teachers or drivers. But Dipson—a cheeky little boy who would moonwalk around the classroom—surprised us: he wanted to be a WWE champion. What the hell is that, we thought. He explained, animatedly, "A big muscular guy with a flashy belt!" Inspired by the strength and determination of WWE wrestlers through videos he saw on YouTube, the scrawny mischief-maker decided that he wanted to be an international wrestling champion. Dipson's desire demonstrates how the internet shows us a world of imagination, through which we can create possibilities.
- Rosan—The Walking Encyclopaedia
Rosan studies in a public school in his village. We ran into him on our way home after school. Through talking to him, we realised how much he knew about the world—endangered species, movies, astronomy… He was like a walking encyclopaedia! This video will show you his learning process:
How the Funds Will Be Used
Principal Shamser hopes to purchase at least ten laptops for his students, so they can have more time to learn how to use different software during computer lessons. These laptops will be shared among six to 20 students in each grade. Looking forward, Shamser hopes that the use of laptops during other subjects will help improve learning, and that the use of laptops outside of the curriculum can encourage students to learn about the world beyond their textbooks.
Heaven Hill relies on funds raised by Shamser and volunteers from across the world to purchase books, stationery, school uniforms and other daily essentials. Another group of volunteers is now raising funds to help Heaven Hill construct their computer lab. To purchase the ten new laptops, which are expected to cost about HK$4,000 each, we will have to raise about HK$40,000. To Shamser and his students, this is an astronomical sum.
If we all pitched in a little—perhaps by not buying that cute sweater, new phone, or cool new game,—we can help these children create a better learning environment. Principal Shamser and the children will thank you, through various means, for participating in the development of their school.
All proceeds, after the deduction of relevant fees charged by bank, will go to Heaven Hill Academy.
Heaven Hill Academy: The Way Out of Poverty
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as at 2011, some 7 million Nepalese aged 15 or above are illiterate. This age group accounts for some 41 per cent of the nation's population, with most of this percentage belonging to lower castes. Although a law was passed in 1962 to prohibit discrimination against lower castes, members of the lower ranks of society continue to hold inferior positions at the workplace, in society, in education and financially, unable to break free from poverty.
Growing up in an agricultural family, principal Shamser Thapa fought hard to earn a university degree. After graduating, he began his career as an educator, and was moved by how his students were unable to afford the school fees, textbooks and examination fees that were necessary for academic advancement. "Shouldn't every child have the equal chance to learn?" He queried. This thought stuck with him, and he was frustrated by how the caste system limits children's potentials. This was why he established the Heaven Hill Academy: to provide a learning environment that truly belonged to the children.
When it was established in 2015, Heaven Hill only had 40 students. Fast forward to a little over two years, the school now has 93 students enrolled in six grades. Although the school has a board comprising official representatives and parents, Shamser spearheads the development of the school. He believes in:
- Providing subsidies
Even students in public schools need to pay for administrative fees, such as examination fees. Unlike the average private school, which expect students to pay for their own expenses, Heaven Hill provides partial, or even full subsidies to students who need it. They also provide students with textbooks and stationery. In addition to subsidising students, principal Shamser and five other teachers pay quarterly visits to families to gain a better understanding of their lives at home, and provide assistance as necessary. Through these visits, Shamser would also identify children in the vicinity who require schooling but have no access to resources, and try to enrol them into Heaven Hill.
- Eliminating Corporal Punishment
Although children in Nepal are no strangers to corporal punishment, Shamser does not believe in it. He has prohibited corporal punishment at Heaven Hill, opting instead to use positive reinforcement to teach students. At Heaven Hill, you might see Shamser and his teachers "punishing" distracted students by asking them to raise their hands, or sing a song.
- Providing Equal Opportunities for Enrolment
Heaven Hill does not discriminate against children for their caste, backgrounds, abilities or health. The school now has three children with Down syndrome enrolled in preschool, nursery and primary two. All three children take part in lessons with their peers. As advised by a Singaporean volunteer teacher, Shamser arranges for animal-assisted therapy for the three children. With a horse borrowed from the village, he and other volunteers would enable the children to experience horseback riding, and through the games and interactions incorporated within the activity, help the children find their confidence and improve balance.
- Empowering Women
In this patriarchal community, many women are confined to the kitchen or the fields, and are economically dependent on their husbands. Heaven Hill has recruited four qualified women to teach at the school to help improve their living standards and to rediscover their confidence and self-worth.
- The Power of the People
As a man of vision and influence, Shamser recognises the power of sharing. He has recruited numerous volunteers through various online platforms to support the development of his school. Backed by the advice, skills and expertise of the international volunteers, Shamser has brought Heaven Hill to life, and created numerous possibilities for development. Moved by Shamser's dedication, many volunteers have returned to teach at Heaven Hill. In 2017, some 140 volunteers have taught, or participated in the development of Heaven Hill.
How We Arrived at Heaven Hill
We are four girls from Hong Kong who found out about the Heaven Hill Academy through an online platform. Although we volunteered at the school for only one week, the memories we made were enough to last a lifetime.
The children never complained about their torn and tattered clothes; they used their pencils until they turned into tiny stubs; they were cheeky—but never lazy. Although we were strangers who didn't understand each other, they embraced us.
Every night, principal Shamser would count his blessings, and the assistance provided by volunteers was always something he was grateful for. As a school principal, he has a lot of responsibilities, yet he insists on teaching, and the children love him. Shamser appreciates the books and stationery donated by volunteers from the world over more than anyone else: he makes sure every single line is filled before students are allowed to discard their ruled notebooks—the kind you can find everywhere in Hong Kong.
Despite having limited resources, Shamser's school never once stopped improving. To benefit his students, he would set and realise one goal after another, providing only the best resources for them. He believes the right learning environment will empower children to reach for the stars.
Dreams do not discriminate. If you're a dreamer, join us in building a better future for Heaven Hill and its children, so they, too, can dream.