Akshar Arambha Nepal-AAN is a nonprofit organization based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Our organization aims to advocate for the rights of children with disabilities, inclusive education and equal participation in mainstream schools. Some of our children might not be able to hear, to see and have physical disability and others might not have any visible disability.
In Nepal, the society views disability as a penance to the sins committed in the previous births. Disabled children are the most marginalized in Nepal. The education of disabled children is considered as a matter of charity rather than a right that every child should demand. As per the “Living Condition of Disabilities in Nepal 2016” research report, among the 179,000 children with disabilities between 05-18 years, 60% are not in schools. The schools are not disabled friendly which leads to poor enrollment and retention of disabled children. This leads to illiteracy, unemployment, exclusion and in the end to poverty.
My Journey towards my Dream
The “Akshar Arambha Nepal-AAN” is a registered nongovernmental organization. Akshar Arambha means to start reading or writing literally in early age or early class founded by Lila Nath Pahadi. I am an inclusive education promoter born in Middle Eastern part of Nepal called Sindhuli. I am physically disabled. In our society there is not good conception towards disability. So, I grew up struggling with misconception, object of charity and pity; even said living penance of past sin. I deeply missed the love of my mother”, whom I did not even get to see in the end, because she and my home were washed away in a landslide when I was 6. However I used to visit a local government school once or twice a month and I felt like a guest. I had no friends. It took me 19 years to finish school education as compared to other peers who finished their school at the age of 14 or 15.
I went to Kathmandu for university education. Though I enrolled, but could not afford the basic needs. After six months of continuous searching, I got a job-contract for the a few years, before finally getting employed by the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal (NFD-N). There I led a project on inclusive education, and visited different districts and found many children with disabilities who didn’t go to school. Those children were facing similar barriers of rejection which I had faced 25 years before.
A research by the NFD-N shows that 60% of the children with disabilities in Nepal don’t have access to education. While the non-disabled enjoy a normal life, their disabled brothers and sisters only receive food twice a day and one pair of clothes in a year. Also, the overprotection, especially in middle class families which parents call “love”, I found harmful. Many disabled are still called ‘babu’, which means baby, even when they become adults and are expected to face difficulties and risks in life.
But in poor families, parents have no time and no money to bring their children to school, and disabled children are kept at the home with no expectation. On the other hand, since there is no disabled friendly school to welcome them, I felt it is unfair to underestimate their abilities.
I have done Bachelors in Education and Masters Degree in Sociology from Tribhuvan University. I have been involved in the disability field for more than 15 years. As an NGO staff, I have good experience in physical infrastructure, policy matters and field work in inclusive education. Observing all these vulnerability among children with disabilities, I motivated to start a social venture to creating accessible inclusive education. This will help to bridge the gap between disabled and non-disabled so that disabled children can play and learn together; help each-other to progress in their life. My dream is that all children can go to school; hand in hand and singing a song of education for all.