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The Sankhu Community School Project, Nepal
The Sankhu School

THE SANKHU COMMUNITY SCHOOL PROJECT provides a free elementary education to Nepalese children in to promote education as an alternative to child labor.  To enable children to attend school regularly, the project also provides one free meal per day to each child.

The International Labor Organization estimates that close to 250 million children worldwide are victims of forced child labor.  These children, some as young as four years old, are subjected to 12-hour days of harsh, unhealthy, and hazardous work in quarries, brickyards, and carpet-weaving factories.  Frequently these children must work to support their families and to pay their parents' debts. In exchange they are paid little and exposed to physical, emotional, and sometimes even sexual abuse. These children sacrifice their health and well being. Indeed, they sacrifice their childhood.  Education is rarely part of their lives.

In Nepal approximately 45.8% of children ages 10 to 14 are involved in the child labor force.   More than one million of these children work in difficult, dangerous, and sometimes even slave-like conditions. To address this serious issue, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights formed a volunteer committee to counter the system of abusive child labor by promoting the children's right to an education. This effort called The Sankhu Community School Project launched a pilot project in Sankhu, a village located about one hour by bus from the capital of Kathmandu.

In Sankhu village, Nepal, more than 50% of the village's 10,000 residents are unemployed.  Because public schools in Nepal require tuition, many parents cannot afford to send their children to school.  As a result of the high unemployment and the lack of free education in their village, an estimated 20% of children between age nine and fourteen leave Sankhu and their families to enter into child labor in Kathmandu. 

The Sankhu-Palubari Community School opened in September 1999 to all disadvantaged children in the area, including girls who normally are expected to give up school in favor of domestic work. In addition to their lessons in reading, writing, and arithmetic, the children receive a free meal—a very important and popular part of the program. In addition, the teachers have been trained in human rights awareness and are incorporating human rights into the curriculum. The school also currently provides immunizations for all of its students.

The school began with 50 students the first year and has added additional students each year. Now beginning its fourth year of operation, the school has 180 enrolled students.  


Students morning exercises at the Sankhu School.
school has made a positive impact on the community.  The Sankhu village police inspector shared one of his observations with Minnesota Advocates.  Many of the community members, who are illiterate, used to request his help in reading their letters.  Now, however, they no longer need his assistance because their children can read to them.  The children can read because they are enrolled in the Sankhu School. 

An important aspect of The Sankhu Community School Project is the partnership with the Sankhu Village Development Committee, a group of local leaders who can help ensure community support for the school. Because local community leaders are involved in the school's progress, the project has increased the degree of collaboration and support among community members. 

For hundreds of millions of children, forced and exploitative labor is an ABUSE OF BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS.

  • A large but unknown number of children are held as bonded or slave laborers or are working in conditions that are clearly harmful to their growth and development.
  • The global community is doing too little to ameliorate this problem.
  • Child labor is closely linked to women's rights and women's level of education.
  • The availability of good schools, books, and food would go a long way to help many children.

International law provides a clear and accepted consensus on the nature and definition of child labor. The ILO has adopted many international conventions on child labor.  The rights of children to education and freedom from exploitation are also clearly stated in the Convention on the Rights of Children (the Children's Convention) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989. The Children's Convention is the most

Human rights are taught in the classroom.
widely ratified international instrument. Only the United States and Somalia have yet to ratify it.


The Solution: In response to the overwhelming number of children who cannot sustain their basic needs and have no alternative to becoming child laborers, a volunteer committee of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights established and opened the Sankhu-Palubari Community School in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal on September 9, 1999 for children under 16. There is no tuition for the school and all students receive free lunches.


Why the Sankhu-Palubari Community School in Nepal? As of 1995, the average life expectancy in Nepal was 55 years, adult literacy was 41 percent for males and 14 percent for females, and only 52 percent of children completed a primary school education. These statistics are some of the worst in the world. Dozens of brickyards surround Kathmandu and children make and carry thousands of bricks each day. Not only is the work arduous, the children are at significant risk of injury from strain, falling bricks, and respiratory illness from dusts.   


Why Bonded Labor? An estimated 15 million children work as bonded laborers in India. Most of these children were put into bondage for a small sum of money—usually less than US$35. The number of years a children must work to pay off the debt is undetermined, and after years of toil the debt has often grown by orders of magnitude.


How You Can Help: A volunteer committee of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights works to raise funds to support the school.


We are glad that people in many places have started knowing our plight and are working to help us. Surely one day child servitude will be a thing of the past. ~Kumar, 9-year old freed bonded laborer