Nepal Needs Teachers
The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal lies in the shadow of the majestic Himalayan Mountains. Nestled between Buddhist Tibet and Hindu India, this nation is a crossroads of cultures. It is also one of the most isolated and least developed nations in the world. The first airplane did not land in Nepal until 1951, 48 years after the airplane was invented. To this day, many remote villages can only be accessed by foot.
While Nepal’s forested valleys, terraced hillsides and snowcapped mountain peaks have attracted a multitude of trekkers and tourists in recent years, these factors have also served as barriers to communication, development and, most especially, education. In rural Himalayan villages, happy children in crimson uniforms walk long distances over rocky paths to school. But the teachers at these schools often lack the training necessary to educate children much beyond grade four.
Since instructors from the big cities are usually unwilling to move to the mountains, this lack of teachers in rural villages has led to prolonged ignorance and poverty. It has also forced thousands of children to leave their homes to pursue an education elsewhere. One man I spoke with in the mountain village of Ghandruk on October 18 told me that he never had the opportunity to graduate from high school. He left his village in 2004 so his children could be educated in Kathmandu, the capital city. All three of his children have now graduated from foreign universities, but he expects they will never return to Nepal.
Parents are not always able to move with their children to locations with better educational opportunities. Often, they send them away to monasteries or boarding schools. According to a 2012 study by the Mountain Research and Development Journal, as many as 3 in 4 youths between ages 10 and 19 from rural highland communities in Nepal live away from home.
Most of these youths are unlikely to return to their villages. This means that the next generation will also have to leave home, or remain uneducated. Every year, about 1 percent of Nepal’s population leaves not just the villages but the country itself in a quest for better schooling. The population of some villages is projected to decline as much as 60 percent in the next five decades.
In a culture where the elderly depend on their children to care for them, such a demographic decline represents more than a loss of culture; it represents a crisis in elderly care. “I have so much land, but no real [income],” one Nepalese resident told Quartz in 2014. “This is one of the reasons I’ve sent my children to school, and now they are abroad. It used to be enough to stay in the village. But the days of planting barley and drinking chang, planting buckwheat and eating dhiro are over now.”
The director of a trekking agency in Kathmandu told me about his company’s efforts to give back to local communities by sponsoring schools in rural areas. Yet worldwide, the United Nations estimates there is still a shortage of 69 million teachers. This shortage is particularly acute in South Asian nations like Nepal.
Despite the current problems, however, there is a bright future for this nation. An internationally acclaimed ambassador for world peace visited Nepal 32 years ago bringing an inspiring vision.
Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Plain Truth magazine, the predecessor of the Philadelphia Trumpet, traveled the world in the 1970s and 1980s meeting with presidents, prime ministers, kings, emperors, legislators, ambassadors, generals, judges, educators, business executives and also many everyday people and impoverished people. He was recognized by members of the diplomatic corps as an “unofficial ambassador for world peace” and “builder of bridges between peoples everywhere.” Between 1971 and 1985, he visited Nepal numerous times, meeting in the Narayanhiti royal palace in Kathmandu with King Mahendra and later with his successor, King Birendra.
On Feb. 27, 1971, Mr. Armstrong wrote to supporters of the Plain Truth, “In Nepal, I had interviews with both the king [Mahendra] and the crown prince [Birendra]. They told me of their insolvable problems of getting education and other help to the isolated mountain people.” Through the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation and cooperation with the Nepalese government, Mr. Armstrong helped sponsor mobile schools to aid in educating the rural population.
In a November 1984 letter to supporters, Mr. Armstrong highlighted that 80 percent of the Nepalese people were illiterate and most had little knowledge of basic sanitation. In the three decades that followed, the illiteracy rate fell to 35 percent—at least partially due to the mobile school program. A trek through the Annapurna mountain range of central Nepal, however, reveals that there is still a lot of work to be done.
That is why, beyond sponsoring schools to teach children to read, Mr. Armstrong brought another type of education to Nepal. During his final visit in 1985, he addressed King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and special guests at the Oberoi Banquet, a dinner hosted in his honor.
Mr. Armstrong spoke about world peace:
They have called me an unofficial ambassador for world peace, and so I am. But let me say that there has to be a reason why we don’t have peace. You cannot have peace unless there is something that is going to cause that peace. And there has to be a reason why something has caused us to have just the opposite of peace in this world today, and I am afraid so many don’t understand that.
Now in the world today, there are many different ideologies, philosophies and religions, and everybody seems to think that their own is the right one and the only one that is true and correct. And I did not come to bring any philosophy, or ideology, but just to state a few facts, that are facts. We do not have peace and will not have peace until human nature is changed. …
Now I am not going out to crusade and stop all wars, I can’t do that. … And there is no man on Earth who can. It is only the great Creator who can. And it’s because we do not rely on the Creator for the knowledge of how to live and how to do, and because we just look to ourselves, that we find we’re helpless before our problems.
Just as Nepal needs teachers to teach children in Dhampus, Pothana and Ghandruk how to read and write, the world needs millions of specially trained teachers to teach people the way to peace.
Upon hearing of Mr. Armstrong’s death in 1986, the Nepalese royal family wrote, “The Queen and I are grieved to hear of the sad demise of Herbert Armstrong. He was a man truly dedicated to the cause of serving humanity. May his soul rest in peace. Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, King of Nepal.”
Tragically, Mr. Armstrong’s message about relying on “the Creator for the knowledge of how to live” went largely unheeded by the royal family. King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya were shot to death by their eldest son in 2001. Birendra’s brother reigned as king for seven years, until the country abolished the monarchy in 2008 and became a democratic republic.
Today, locals wonder why their government cannot give them the same standard of living enjoyed in Western nations. Some look to China as a source of investment funds. Others think the trekking industry will bring in the money necessary to modernize their education system. But no one relies fully on the “great Creator” of the universe to show them the path toward true education.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote of a time, yet future, when, “though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers” (Isaiah 30:20). This verse describes a time after the Messiah returns to Earth to bring world peace. After thousands of years of eating “the bread of adversity” and drinking “the water of affliction,” mankind will finally be humble enough to acquiesce to doing things God’s way. But God won’t teach the masses by Himself. Instead, He will have prepared His saints to be teachers in this wonderful World Tomorrow. These saints will not be “removed into a corner” as they are today. Instead, all eyes shall see their teachers.
Jesus Christ and His saints will usher in an era of total literacy, total education. More than this, they will usher in an era when all people can choose to receive the Holy Spirit of God, thus allowing their carnal human nature to be changed. Then, as Mr. Armstrong told King Birendra, all people will come to “rely on the Creator for the knowledge of how to live and how to do.” The world desperately needs this knowledge.