In the late 1990s, Meyrav Mor (from Israel) established the very first kindergarten known as Bal Mandir. Meyrav went on to found Nepal’s first Steiner-Waldorf school in 2000, the Tashi Waldorf School, with an Early Childhood centre.
About the same time, the Shanti Waldorf-Inspired School (2 kindergartens and primary) was created to the north of the Kathmandu city centre in Budhanilkantha as part of a larger initiative of the German INGO ‘Shanti Leprahilfe’ (for leprosy sufferers).
An new kindergarten (‘til Grade 2) , known as Ankuran, has recently been established in the small settlement of Khahara south of Kathmandu as part of the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation (KRMEF).
To the far north of Kathmandu in the second largest city of Pokhara, a kindergarten was established in 2014 by Ritman Gurung, Bishnu Shechen and team called ‘Maitreya Pathshala Waldorf -nspired School’.
Training. Two Early Childhood training sessions are held annually – an introductory workshop led by Nepali Sarita Sanghai and a more advanced workshop conducted by an experienced master teacher referred to us by IASWECE.
We also hold primary school (grade) introductory and advanced workshops led by master Waldorf teacher Michal Ben Shalom (Israel) supported by ‘Freunde der Erziehungskunst R.Steiner’. We also welcome other international master teachers, such as Van James (Hawaii), who holds art workshops.We also welcome private visits from individual Steiner/Waldorf teachers, who are always a source of knowledge and inspiration.
Advanced trainings are conducted in Kathmandu , while introductory workshops are offered in different cities and towns of Nepal, such as Pokhara and Jomsom. The intent is to increase the number of such workshops, especially introductory workshops. There is great demand for these from educators other than those versed in Steiner/Waldorf educational philosophy. At times the courses are oversubscribed!
Current events. All of our Steiner/Waldorf initiatives were impacted by the disastrous earthquakes of April and May, 2015. Buildings were either destroyed (Shanti) or severely damaged (Tashi), or their supporting projects (Maitreya) were brought to a sudden halt, etc.This was further aggravated by the 4-month long unofficial blockade imposed by the Indian government and supported by the ethnic Madhesis in the south of the country, who have protested against the government and the new constitution.
But despite these severe setbacks, the teachers of all schools collaborated in bringing relief to children in the earthquake refuges camps, even going so far as to award full scholarships (Tashi) to 35 children from the poorest families in the poorest of camps in Kathmandu. A real social deed!
All schools are reliant on financial donations and on-going sponsorships, as the majority of students attend the schools free of charge, seeing that they come from socially and economically challenged backgrounds. As an example, fees are Nrs4000 per month (US$ 38) at Tashi. Those who are able to financially contribute pay approx. Nrs100 (US$1) per month!! This includes two healthy snacks and a full Nepali midday meal (as much as you can eat) for the children. It may be their only meal of the day.
Thus the greatest need is financial support, together with teacher training for the early years and primary class teachers.
Burning issues. For any school trying to introduce a new, alternative mode of teaching in Nepal, there is the inevitable clash with traditionalists who cling to the ’known-and-proven’ despite its drawbacks. This fear of change is most strongly felt by the parents and thus an approach such as Steiner-Waldorf, is met with resistance and apprehension! It takes strong individuals to step outside of the comfort zone and try something so radically different, such as is offered in a Steiner-Waldorf learning environment. It takes equally strong individuals to promote such an alternative!
Sarita Sanghai is a Nepali Waldorf early childhood educator who lives in India. She returns to Nepal several times each year to help with the development of Waldorf early childhood education there, primarily through offering workshops sponsored by IASWECE and others.