Swabalambi School for the Deaf

Help us provide accessible education to deaf children who would otherwise be unable to attend school.

Group of Nepali children sitting on floor in a circle. Children have books around them. Older woman sitting in middle of the circle smiling.

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Location

Murali Banjyang, Dhading District, Nepal

Summary

Swabalambi School for the Deaf is a primary school that provides accessible education for deaf children. It is located in the small community of Murali Banjyang in the Dhading District, about a 4 ½ hr drive away from the capital city Kathmandu. Before the opening of Swabalambi, there were no local teachers in the district that could teach deaf children. Due to this, many of the students who now attend Swabalambi had no access to education.

Local teachers in Dhading did not have the skills to teach deaf children, and many families cannot afford to send their special needs children to a boarding school in the city. Before attending Swabalambi, many students had never attended school.

Swabalambi also runs a student hostel. Most students live there during their studies since they live too far away from the school to easily travel back and forth. Currently, more than 60 students attend the school, with over 50 living in the school hostel.

Details

Swabalambi was founded by the incredible Ram Adhikari. Ram himself is profoundly deaf. Despite his impairment, he obtained a Masters degree in Education. His dream is for Deaf Children in Dhading to have the same opportunity he did. However, local classrooms could not teach deaf children, so they languished at home and worked in the fields with no chance to learn. Ram decided to make a change, and the Swabalambi school was born. 

The school opened with 34 profoundly deaf students in temporary quarters, just a brick shell of an unfinished farmhouse, loaned to them by a local family.  The students were 5 to 14 years and were enrolled in grades 1 to 4.

In 2013, a local farmer donated land on which to build a school. By 2014, the foundation was in and walls for four rooms were up, thanks to some local Supporters. Their meager financial resources were already exhausted. It was obvious they needed help. Our Donors contributed and the Alberta Incentive program matched our funds to build the new school. Classes moved into the unfinished building in November, 2014. 

The founding principal Ram Adhikari is profoundly deaf, and his wife is hearing impaired. Three of the four original teachers are also deaf, allowing them to teach with experience and understanding. Students are first taught Nepali Sign Language, which is then used to teach the curriculum. The school currently offers Kindergarten through to Grade Six, and has applied to offer Grade Seven.

To learn more about Swabalambi, click here to read a blog post by Elsie James (OCV's Nepal Project Manager).

Swabalambi Primary School for Deaf Children is found in the small community of Murali Banjyang, Dhading District. It’s about a 4 ½ hr drive west of the capital city Kathmandu, Nepal. 
When I visited, the school was in temporary quarters, Just a brick shell of an unfinished farmhouse, loaned to them by a local family.  


Opened in 2012, the school had 34 profoundly deaf students, aged 5 to 14 years enrolled in grades 1 to 4. The Founding Principal, Ram Adhikhari, is profoundly deaf and his wife is hearing impaired. Three of the original four teachers are also deaf.  


Founder, Ram Kumar Adhikari had a dream.  Ram, himself is profoundly dear. Despite his impairment, Ram has a Masters degree in Education.  He wanted Deaf Children in Dhading to have the same opportunity he did. But local classrooms could not teach deaf children. They languished at home and worked in the fields with no chance to learn.


In 2013, the situation began to change.  A local farmer donated land on which to build a school.  By 2014, when I visited, the foundation was in and walls for four rooms were up, thanks to some local Supporters. Their meager financial resources were already exhausted. It was obvious they needed help. Our Donors contributed and the Alberta Incentive program matched our funds to build the new school. Classes moved into the unfinished building in November, 2014.  


On April 25, 2015, disaster struck! A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit north central Nepal followed by a 7.3 quake just two weeks later plus more than 400 aftershocks.  Nine thousand people died and more than 23,000 were seriously injured. Three Million people were left homeless.  Swabalambi, unlike many schools in this part of Nepal, had only minor damage.
The School continued to operate with only the first floor rooms, showers & toilet building completed.  Classrooms on the 2nd floor were bare shells but serving the purpose intended. Enrolment continued to grow. Sixty-four children now had a chance to become educated, productive adults.  Walls were bare but the rough benches in the classrooms were full of children. The Dream did not die when the earth shook. 


The Dining Hall and Kitchen on the third floor were completed in 2019. Classrooms had clean, candy-cotton pink walls! The outside of the building was Sunshine yellow.  


The challenges aren’t over. In March 2020, Nepal locked down, closed their borders and the International Airport in Kathmandu due to the world wide Pandemic.  (Nepal is highly dependent on Tourism, the largest source of foreign income. The lockdown has been economically devastating for them.) Then, all schools closed and most children in the Hostel returned home.  


In July 2020, disaster struck again.  The steep slope below the School building was saturated with heavy monsoon rains. The concrete and brick retaining wall collapsed as a huge mudslide broke free from the hillside within a few feet of the School foundation.  Mud and debri demolished everything in its path. Terraced fields, trees, bushes and playground moved relentlessly down the steep hillside to the road and farmhouses below.  During the 2015 Earthquake, thankfully, the school building and other structures remain standing.  But this break was close to the ground floor rooms of the boys hostel.  Caretaking staff had to leave the building empty. 


(see photos on next page)
Plans for Parent workshops to learn Sign Language and enable them to communicate with deaf children are on hold. Vocational Training Classes, to help older students unable to continue Academic studies, are also delayed.


For Swabalambi students there are no alternatives.  They cannot attend school in the standard school system.  There are no Teaching Assistants in Nepali classrooms. 


A whole new world of opportunities opened for Students at Swabalambi School for Deaf Children, because of one man, Ram Adhikari.  He has not given up hope. He refuses to believe his Dream died in a mudslide in July.


Swabalambi cannot welcome their Students back, until funds can be raised to stabilize the Slide area and reconstruct retaining walls.  Help has been promised by the local government, but so far, has not been forthcoming.  Fundraising during the Pandemic, has been close to impossible.  If your heart has been touched by Swabalambi’s story, will you help us make this School a safe place, again?
If this story touches your heart, please donate whatever you can (small drops of water make and Ocean). Please designate your Gift for the Swabalambi School for Deaf Children Project in Dhading, Nepal. Cheques should be made payable to One Child’s Village and mailed to Elsie James, 410 Freeman Way NW, High River, AB T1V 1R2, or call me at 403-498-8800.  Please ensure you include your current address and contact number. Thank you for your generosity!

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