School life in Nepal varies across the country but at SMD School, we follow the Nepali government curriculum complemented by the teachings of the Buddha. A typical day starts early for everyone: our kids wake up at 5 a.m. (6 a.m. in the winter), wash their faces, brush their teeth and dress in play clothes. Breakfast is at 7 a.m., after which the kids have free time until classes start at 9 a.m.. Most of the kids use this time for homework which we call ‘self-study’ and to change into their school dress. Classes run six days a week from Sunday to Friday with Saturdays off. The first and third Sunday of each month is also off.
We hold assembly on Monday mornings with all the girls, boys, monks, nuns and teachers present—all in all that makes a group of about 600! Morning prayers are said and everyone sings the Nepali national anthem. Students make announcements in English, Tibetan or Nepali in front of the entire assembly as we encourage everyone to learn public speaking.
Classes run from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. (2:30 for the little ones). Depending on the year, political situation, weather, volunteers and budgets, we run cultural, art and sports activities after classes. We also offer early-morning and late-afternoon tutoring for those kids who need extra help. The most difficult subjects for them are usually Math, Nepali, and Tibetan (depending on the child’s mother tongue). After dinner, everyone must do their homework, prayers and meditation, and then it’s off to bed around 8 or 9 p.m. depending on age.
Peeking into our classrooms or dorms, you’d be surprised to see how crowded we are! Depending on the class, we’ll have 25 to 35 students per classroom and many of our dormitories have beds triple stacked.
The hostels are divided into girls’ and boys’ dormitories. Same gender relatives get to stay together, which eases the strangeness of moving from a mountain village into the big city. When a younger relative arrives, older siblings and the other kids from the same village flock around to help, each acting as a guide or a mom or dad. Everyone helps everyone else. Each room is ‘captained’ by an older kid. A sense of family permeates SMD School because we teach the children that we are all part of Thrangu Rinpoche’s family, and our Hostel teachers are a dedicated lot—they put in long (nine to 12 hour) days.