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Maya Universe Academy

by Binayak BasnyatLondon, United Kingdom

The country has little hope from government schools, as they are inefficient, ill managed, and corrupt similar to the government that runs them. We opened a school of love.

Project Summary

Initiating sustainable Model for the rural people with Education at the core.

 

PROBLEMS

In January 2011 Maya Universe Academy was formed to address the appalling education outcomes of students in rural Nepal. Our mission is to empower Nepalese children through social inclusion, whilst also including all members of the local community. The current status of education suggests that a new community centered approach is required. Statistics from the Ministry of Education and Teach Nepal indicate that 222,070 students in Nepal failed their School Leaving Certificate (SLC) in 2012 alone. This certificate is achieved at Grade 10. Additionally 64% of students educated in the public school system failed their SLC. However, the problem is far more deeply engrained. For instance, if 100 students enroll for grade one, by the end of grade ten only 15% will have remained in the school system. The future prospects for these children are severely diminished. When delving deeper into the data provided from the Ministry of Education, it becomes apparent that of the students who fail their SLC, 90% fail in the core subjects such as Mathematics, English and Science. An even more relevant statistic alarms us that  25% of students in the fourth grade cannot count double digits. An alternative to public schooling is the private sector. However the costs of such schooling present an insurmountable obstacle to the rural communities of Nepal.  The current dire educational situation requires an alternative mode of schooling. This is where the ‘Maya Model’ hopes to provide the rural communities of Nepal with a viable and holistic approach to education. 

CHALLENGE

People across the world have responded to unfair and oppressive regimes, either by picking up arms to rebel against the regime or by putting up a slogan on a piece of paper and walking down the road to seek change. We tend to move past these choices and bring an alternative on the table. You can only change the things that you perceive is wrong by stepping on the ground and doing a better job on it rather being the change that you want to see.  

We resolved to challenge the government by showing that the quality of education provided to children, especially in rural areas of Nepal, is abysmal and that we can do better with little or no resources. It was then in 2011 we established our first classes literally form inside a tent.  

MODEL

Admittance at Maya Schools is effectively free, which makes us the first free private school recognized by the government of Nepal.
In exchange for the children’s admittance, the parents work two days per month in operations. They contribute to the production process (eg: farming), or help with construction work and other needs.  Villagers within the Maya Community are involved in sustenance agriculture, primarily producing crops such as rice, banana, orange and bamboo. Majority of the farmers are also involved in animal husbandry, particularly in implementing the permaculture model to raise chickens, in order to supplement their agricultural production. The introduction of Maya Universe Academy in the local communities has allowed farmers to educate their children by becoming parent volunteers, bartering their time for knowledge. The introduction of global volunteers (150 foreign volunteers till date) has further benefitted the Maya community with the added diverse perspectives and culture the volunteers bring to the community. The Academy has also emphasized in environment friendly and sustainable practices, evident in the eco-friendly design of the school buildings using bamboo from the farm.

As of now the agricultural production facility at Maya is still not mature enough to cover all expenses (though it covers most needs). Maya asks volunteers visiting the schools to pay approximately $200 per month for food and shelter. This is the only money coming into Maya for now. The aim in the long run is to eliminate the need for this funding source and to operate solely on a self-sustaining model, which should be possible when production ramps up. These educational communities should be strong enough to hold their own in the long term, and create skilled and educated workers. This system repurposes the often under-utilized skills of the villagers, who are farmers, ranchers, and foremen, to ensure a very basic need: a good education for children who will eventually become key players in local development.

Impact

The introduction of Maya Universe Academy has provided village students an alternative to government schools, by providing quality education to local communities. Today, the project operates in 3 different locations (Damauli, Sagarmatha, and Syanja). Word of mouth spreads very quickly, and numerous requests have been made for Maya to open new schools, as a result 17 new projects are in the pipeline. 
The quality of education Maya provides is more respected than public schools. Older children coming from public schools must start in a lower-grade class in order to catch up with students who began their education in Maya.The government schools are losing students as children are prepared, even to commute for over an hour to attend Maya. This has meant that the local government schools have emphasized on increasing the quality of education they provide, out of fear of losing students to Maya. Maya Academy’s impact has been positively felt by the impacted students, with past volunteers and relevant stakeholders agreeing that Maya students are better educated because they get acquainted with a well-rounded educational system.
The farmers of the local communities have also expressed their gratification to the Maya community for reviving and believing in the entrepreneurial spirit of the impacted communities. In a recent interview, farmers told Maya volunteers how the community had benefitted from logistical and technical support from the Academy in their entrepreneurial ventures.

Conclusion

We at Maya think that the very nature of Maya Universe Academy attracts a particular kind of person. This person is either looking for a genuine, albeit a different experience, or sees the infinite possibilities that education bestow upon its students. Maya’s work suggests that supporting social enterprises in the production of tangible wealth (like agricultural products) can work, and even teach the “more affluent” West a lesson. At present it is not only the students that benefit at Maya, but also a much wider and broader network of volunteers, who often come from abroad. Volunteers arrive at Maya keen to help and teach, but leave with an experience that will have a positive effect for themselves and other communities in the future, thus we believe that Maya will have an international impact in the future. Being presented with a system that was born out of Maya (love) offers a completely new outlook on how our world could possibly function. By simply offering what you know and are able to do, Maya offers a system that provides for all without the need for greed.

You can also vote for our project on : http://www.dellchallenge.org/projects/maya-universe-acadmey where we have reach the semi-final round.