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MAYA UNIVERSE ACADEMY
Initiating a sustainable model for rural Nepal with education at the core
In January 2011, Maya Universe Academy was formed to address the appalling education outcomes of students in rural Nepal. Our mission is to empower Nepalese children through social inclusion, while engaging all local members of the community. The current status of education in rural Nepal bellows for a new community-centered approach. Statistics from the Ministry of Education and Teach Nepal indicate that 222,070 students in Nepal failed their School Leaving Certificate (SLC) in 2012 alone. This certificate is achieved at Grade 10. Moreover, 64% of students educated in Nepal's public school system fail their SLC. However, the problem is far more deeply engrained. For example, of every 100 students that enroll in grade one, by the end of grade ten, only 15% will remain in school. The future prospects of these children are severely and unacceptably diminished. Delving deeper into the data provided from the Ministry of Education, it becomes apparent that of the students who fail their SLC, 90% fail in core subjects: Mathematics, English, and Science. Worse, only 25% of students in the fourth grade can count double digits. The alternative to public schooling is the private sector. However, the costs of such education present an insurmountable obstacle to the rural communities of Nepal. Our current dire educational situation requires an alternative model. The ‘Maya Model’ provides rural communities in Nepal with a viable, accessible, and holistic approach to education. People across the world resist corrupt and oppressive regimes; some choose violence, picking up arms to rebel against the regime, others protest non-violently with slogans on placards, walking down the road peacefully. We at Maya Universe Academy have chosen an alternative; we have created a movement focusing on empowerment, community, and education. Each day we plant our feet on solid ground, ready to battle inequality with knowledge and love. This is the change we strive for: This is the revolution we work towards. Our resolve to challenge the government and show the abysmal quality of education provided to children in rural areas of Nepal is unceasing. We will continue to build our grassroots movement, delivering hope, love, and change through the empowerment of education. From humble beginnings in a canvas tent, we have spread our movement, our mission, and our knowledge through our resolve to our core concept: Love. Admittance at Maya Schools is monetarily free, which makes us the first free, private school recognized by the government of Nepal. In exchange for the children’s admittance, the parents work two days per month in operations at the academy. They contribute to the production process (i.e. organic farming), construction projects, and other needs such as sewing school uniforms. Villagers within the Maya Community make a living through sustenance agriculture, primarily producing crops such as rice, bananas, oranges, and bamboo. The majority of the farmers are also involved in animal husbandry, particularly permaculture models that include raising chickens in order to supplement their agricultural production. The introduction of Maya Universe Academy in the local communities has afforded farmers the opportunity to educate their children by becoming parent volunteers, bartering their skills and time for knowledge and their child's education. Assisting the local community is an ever-growing group of global volunteers (150+ foreign volunteers to date). Our foreign volunteers contribute diverse perspectives and cultures to the local community and to the school. Each volunteer brings an essential skill or passion to share with the community. Past volunteers have brought nutritional and medical care to the community, formed and catalogued a library, installed a solar powered steam mill, performed music and theatre, and engaged local farmers in best practice. Maya Universe Academy emphasizes environmentally conscious and sustainable practices in all that we do. Our classrooms are constructed from an eco-friendly design using bamboo from our own farms. We collect rainwater for washing, and harness the sun to power weekend movie screenings for the children (imagine that: an outdoor theatre in rural Nepal!). The agricultural production facility at Maya continues to mature, but does not yet cover all expenses (though it covers much of our non-monetary needs). Maya Academy asks all foreign volunteers visiting the schools to pay approximately $200 per month for food and shelter. This money directly supports our mission and initiatives. In the long run, our goal is to eliminate the need for this funding source and to operate solely on a self-sustaining model. As our farms and schools grow, our production increases. We expect to by self-sustaining by the end of 2015. The education provided to these communities will provide long-term solutions, the most important being an increase in skilled, educated workers. Our system engages the often under-utilized skills of the villagers - farmers, ranchers, and foremen - to ensure basic needs, a life-changing education, a future and a choice for the children who will eventually become key players in local development. The introduction of Maya Universe Academy has provided village students an alternative to government schools and provided quality education to local communities. Today, the project operates in 3 different locations (Damauli, Sagarmatha, and Syanja). Word of mouth spreads very quickly, and numerous requests have been made for Maya to open new schools, as a result 17 new projects are in the pipeline. Maya Universe Academy provides a higher level of education than the public schools. Older children coming from public schools must start in a lower-grade class in order to catch up with students who began their education in Maya. The government schools are losing students as some children commute for over an hour to attend Maya. This has meant that the local government schools have emphasized increasing the quality of education they provide, out of fear of losing students to Maya. Our students and their families have positively felt Maya Academy’s impact. Past volunteers and stakeholders agree that Maya students are better educated because they get acquainted with a well-rounded educational system and have native English speakers teaching them. The farmers of the local communities have also expressed their gratitude to the Maya community for reviving and believing in the entrepreneurial spirit of the communities we operate in. In a recent poll and subsequent interview, farmers told Mayan volunteers about how the community had benefitted from the logistical and technical support the Maya Academy provided through their entrepreneurial ventures, educational workshops, and commitment to community development. We at Maya think that the very nature of Maya Universe Academy attracts a particular kind of person. This person is either looking for a genuine, unique experience, and sees the infinite possibilities that education bestows upon our children. Maya’s model proves that social enterprise, ingenuity, and commitment produce tangible results. Not only do our 250+ students benefit from Maya, but also every person connected to our movement receives the love our movement radiates. Our volunteers arrive at one of our Maya schools keen to help and teach, but leave with more knowledge and love then they came with. Maya perpetuates an experience that positively impacts all people who come in contact with it. Already, from deep in rural Nepal, Maya Universe Academy has had an international impact; which will only grow in the future. Maya (love) offers a fresh, but often overlooked outlook on how our world could possibly function. By simply offering what you know and are able. Please give what you can, and share our movement of Maya.