A first-of-its-kind school in Nepal established to provide education to HIV-positive children who are excluded from public schools will continue on its much-needed mission after a lack of funding threatened to leave the children homeless.
Teacher Raj Kumar Pun founded Nepal’s Saphalta HIV Siksha Sadan (which translates to “Successful HIV Home and School”) in 2010 after reading a newspaper article about a 10-year-old girl whose parents had died of AIDS, leaving her orphaned.
“All of the schools refused to enroll our children,” Pun said on the news program Asia Calling earlier this year. “They claimed that they would lose their business if they would take admission [of] the HIV-positive children in their school. Even government schools refused them.”
Pun joined forces with his friend Uma Gurung, a mother and shop owner, and asked the Nepalese government for permission to launch the nation’s first school specifically for HIV-positive youth.
“Nobody wanted to take care of these children with HIV,” Gurung told the Associated Press. “It is not their fault that they are sick.”
The school is now recognized by the area’s education district as an alternative educational institution, but last year Pun and Gurung found themselves struggling to keep it afloat. With no government funding, they were caring for 10 students (all between the ages of 3 and 10) who lived full-time at the school.
When another woman, Sakuntala Acharya, read of the school’s uncertain future, she wrote a check for 100,000 rupees (about $1,150)—enough to keep the school running.
Although Acharya’s donation secured the school’s site, administrators continue to face an uphill battle in providing for the students. Some antiretroviral medication is available free through hospitals, but checkups and routine tests continue to stretch the founders’ modest salaries, the primary source of the school’s funding, reports the Kathmandu Post.
And the need remains great. Nepal’s National Centre for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease Control estimates that there are at least 5,000 HIV-positive children living in the nation.