Christmas 2020 Newsletter
CHRISTMAS 2020 NEWSLETTER
An Urgent Christmas Appeal
Will you help us? The HVP schools are still going in spite of everything COVID-19 has thrown their way. But with schools closed during lockdown and very little in the way of fees coming in, their income has all but dried up and meeting the day-to-day running costs of a school has become an existential challenge. HVPN-UK has been giving financial help to HVP Thali, Dang and Central School for the period of lockdown in Nepal. Most critically, this allowed the schools to pay teachers 50% of their usual salary for the last three months, until the end of November. A mixture of generous donation and the use of most of our reserve funds have made this assistance possible. The crisis continues, however, and of paramount importance is that we keep the schools going until normal classroom teaching resumes and with it a steady income from school fees.
The schools are at a critical juncture. We are appealing to everyone who has ever been involved with HVP – who knows what the schools stand for and what they give to their communities – to give what they can to help the schools until they can be self-sufficient again.
The easiest and most effective way of making a donation or starting your own fundraising campaign is through our JustGiving page:
And please authorise Gift Aid if you are able, which allows us to collect an additional 25% from the UK Government on top of your donation.
Thank you for your help.
Welcome and Update from Nepal
And welcome to the Christmas 2020 HVPN-UK newsletter. We hope this finds you and families as well as can be. As we go to press, the news is breaking that much of South-East England has been placed under the new Tier 4 level of restrictions, or its equivalent in Scotland and Wales. For many of us, this means a cancellation of plans we may have had for Christmas, including the chance to see loved ones. Feelings of frustration, anger and sadness are dominating both private and public discourse; the hope of some respite has been taken away and many people face the stark prospect of a lonely Christmas. The economic impact will be of a hammer blow to small business. Schools in the UK are bracing themselves for a chaotic January and major question marks hang over the fairness and feasibility of public exams in the summer. There can be no doubt that Covid-19 feels closer than ever before – we all know neighbours, colleagues, friends and family members who have contracted the virus and we hope and pray for their recovery, both in the short and long term.
The picture in Nepal is no less uncertain. Schools in the Kathmandu area remain closed, but restrictions are beginning to be lifted elsewhere in the country and both HVP Dang and Thali have seen their first students return. The headmasters of the three HVP schools – Vishnu ji (Central), Bhola ji (Dang) and Manohar ji (Thali) – have all expressed their anxieties about the numbers of students returning to school and having the financial capacity to pay 100% staff salaries once full-time classroom teaching resumes. Some parents are understandably worried about sending their children back to school. Bhola ji is aware of children at Dang who have dropped out of education altogether, either to begin work or to be married, on account of the wider economic consequences wrought by COVID-19.
But hope remains.
There have been to date, thankfully, no COVID-related fatalities at any of the schools and although one teacher at Dang and two teachers at Central School contracted the virus, one seriously, all have since recovered. Throughout lockdown teaching has continued in some form or other, either online teaching via Zoom or in Dhang through the innovative use of mobile classrooms. Results from secondary exams taken online have been good. There is also a gradual movement towards schools reopening in districts outside of Kathmandu. HVP Thali has been open since the end of the festival of Tihar in mid-November and Dang since the beginning of December. Students are returning and Manohar Ji at Thali is feeling more confident about financial sustainability, in terms of recouping school fees and paying teacher salaries. School is open at Thali for Classes 4-10 in the morning from 7-10am, and all students in classes 8, 9 and 10 have registered as present.
HVP Central School, for now, remains closed, as do all schools in the central Kathmandu area. The immediate future is uncertain and Vishnu ji spoke of rumours that schools in Lalitpur may soon be permitted to reopen. This cannot come soon enough for Central School, which is already mentally preparing to restart, with students in the senior school prioritised. As with the UK, there are questions as to whether sufficient time remains in the academic school year for the teaching of the course in IGCSE Sanskrit, with exams taking place in the summer. Helen Harper from St James School has, in any case, plans to teach cross-school sessions online. Vishnu ji has been requesting fees from parents whose children have been attending online lessons, but with variable success. He is aware that teachers will expect to be paid 100% salaries once reaching resumes as normal. But Central is facing a potentially serious shortfall given the anticipated loss of between 70 to 100 students from outside the Kathmandu area, who have since enrolled at schools more local to them which have been able to reopen.
All three headmasters have made special mention of the subsidy that HVPN-UK was able to provide the schools during lockdown, enough to pay 50% of staff salaries until the end of November. This has been a vital lifeline for the three schools and the livelihoods of the teachers, and it remains the core focus of our Christmas appeal: we are determined to keep the schools going until they are able to guarantee a steady income from school fees.
The HVP Scholarship Fund
Once the immediate challenge of keeping the schools financially viable is met, we still have to take stock of the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable children and their families.
Sent out to the three schools on a quarterly basis, the HVPN-UK scholarship fund either pays in full or in part the school fees for the children from the lowest income families, who would not otherwise be able to send their children to an HVP school. It is HVPN-UK’s most important way of supporting the schools and its students year in year out.
That is why we are asking for a regular monthly donation of £20 to the HVPN-UK Scholarship Fund.
The scholarship fund could not then be more important than it is now to keep as many HVP students as possible in school. We know a good number of you already give on a regular basis towards this fund and we are hugely grateful. Many students would not be in school without it. We are appealing to you, our friends and supporters, who may already be thinking of ways in which you would like to help, to consider setting up a monthly Direct Debit and to give a regular sum of money to the HVPN-UK Scholarship Fund. We are suggesting £20 as a monthly donation but would gratefully receive any amount that you feel you are able to give.
You can set up your monthly donation through our JustGiving page – not forgetting to authorise the extra 25% Gift Aid if applicable. Simply go to:
Christmas Cheer from Merchant Taylors’ School
In the June 2020 newsletter, we mentioned how despite the cancellation of the planned Merchant Taylors’ School (MTS) trip to Nepal in July 2020, fundraising efforts to build a new classroom in the new wing at HVP Central School continued. 22 students from Years 11 to 13 had been preparing to teach a mixture of English, Maths and Science for a week’s course of lessons, before embarking on a trekking adventure into the Kathmandu Valley and the foothills of the Himalayas.
That was until COVID-19 had other ideas.
We are now delighted to announce that we have just reached our target of £3,500, enough to completely furnish a brand-new classroom in the wing of the school that had to be rebuilt following the earthquake in 2015. This was made possible by the considerable generosity of the students and their parents who still donated to the Nepal school despite the cancellation of the trip. A special thank you must go to the MTS Ladies Association whose very generous donation got us over the finishing line just before the end of term. These acts of giving have, together, made the ambition of a creating a brand-new classroom in Nepal a reality; it is an investment in the future of HVP and a physical symbol of what we hope will be a lasting partnership between MTS and all three HVP schools.
The Promise of 2021
Let us never speak again of 2020? So reads the message of many Christmas cards. But there is cause for optimism in 2021. Not only is the vaccine beginning to be rolled out and with it the hope of some kind of normality returning to the world around Spring and Summer next year; there is also the promise of a BHAJAN. An online bhajan of course. Anyone who has been to Nepal and one of the HVP schools will have witnessed (probably on several occasions) a programme or bhajan, normally of a cultural nature involving a wonderful mix of traditional Nepali singing, dancing and meditation led by the teachers and students. Without wishing to romanticise things too much, it is when the onlooker is drawn into the spiritual community of Nepal.
At the end our last online meeting, the HVPN-UK committee were treated to one such bhajan at HVP Dang. Video recording on his mobile phone, Bhola ji was able to transmit across Nepal and all the way to the UK a live performance of students singing and chanting at the Children’s Peace Home. For a moment we had all just stepped back into Nepal. This came after former HVPN-UK chair, Aaron Naik, had the idea of holding an online bhajan as a way of bringing the worldwide HVP community together and fundraising at the same time through a ticketed entry. We all wondered, as one, why we hadn’t thought of this years ago! Perhaps there is still some good to come out of COVID-19 after all.
Watch this space, but a date around the Nepali New Year of the 13th April was suggested – a time of new beginnings and renewal whichever country or culture you belong to. Tickets to go on sale shortly.
The next meeting of HVPN-UK will be taking place online on Saturday 20th Feb 2021. This is also our AGM. If anyone is interested in joining the meeting who has not attended before, you would be very welcome. We are looking to fill some key posts on the committee, including the vital role in charge of Scholarship. Being a part of HVPN-UK gives you valuable experience into the workings of a small charity/NGO if any of you are interested in careers in development. There is also no better way of re-engaging with or growing your relationship with Nepal and HVP in an incredibly meaningful way.
Keep safe and well everyone and we wish you, in spite of everything, a very Happy Christmas.
The HVPN-UK Committee