DUBAI // While many children around the world were building sandcastles by the sea over summer, Suraj helped to build a school in his village in western Nepal.
Suraj, 14, will be one of 150 children to study at the primary school when it is completed, thanks to funding from Dubai Cares.
“Children face a number of hurdles accessing education in a number of countries we work in,” said Dubai Cares programme manager Mona Tahboub.
“A lot of them, like Suraj, drop out of primary school and then restart their primary education at a later stage when education is made accessible.”
Suraj was forced to take on more responsibilities when his father left Nepal to work in India. He can return to school now that his father has begun to send money home.
His parents are uneducated but Suraj said he was determined to become a doctor or engineer.
“If I study I can be a successful person in the future,” he told Dubai Cares, in between digging the foundations, carrying rocks and filtering sand at the building site.
Dubai Cares teamed up with Build-On, an international non-profit organisation that builds schools in developing countries, for the project.
“Dubai Cares is covering the cost of construction of the school, which primarily uses professional workers,” said Mrs Tahboub.
“However, the local community is deeply committed to the school and supports the construction by volunteering their services.
“Their involvement has enhanced community commitment and cooperation at various levels.”
Construction of the school began last year in the small village of Sukumbasi Tole.
It is one of a handful of projects in which Dubai Cares is involved across the country to help boost literacy among children and adults and improve education.
Mrs Tahboub said the initiative would take three years to complete.
“As with all our programmes, we aim to transfer ownership of it to the local community, who will then be responsible for its continuation,” she said. “In most cases, it is an organic process as the community is already deeply involved in the execution of the programme.”
The programme aims to build 220 libraries with the help of Room to Read, an organisation aiming to promote literacy and gender equality in developing countries.
A Dubai Cares grant also funded the printing and distribution of 50,000 books covering five titles in the local language.
“Libraries have been shown to have a positive impact on literacy and reading skills,” said Mrs Tahboub.
“An extensive global study found that countries that support and fund school and classroom libraries have higher levels of reading skills in developed and developing countries.
“In addition, by providing access to supplemental reading materials, libraries promote vocabulary development and creative thinking, and increase student access to subjects and ideas beyond the classroom.”
The programme’s adult literacy activities will benefit about 5,000 adults, including teachers and officials, Dubai Cares said.
“The programme supports literacy classes for adults in rural areas,” said Mrs Tahboub. “This is in addition to employment prospects for educated adults who can contribute as teachers and project leaders.”