Since its inception in 2003, Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) has been working to unite expatriate Nepalis from around the world and channelize their skills, knowledge and resources to help the NRN community and in the socio-economic development of Nepal. The establishment more than a dozen task forces including the Skill Knowledge and Innovation (SKI) Task Force, by the 4th global conference of the NRNA in Kathmandu in December 2009, was a major step forward in that direction.
In its declaration, NRNA emphasised the need of knowledge investment as a priority for the long term prosperity of Nepal and pledged to work jointly with the Government of Nepal (GoN) as well as with other stakeholders in Nepal and abroad. Over the past 14 months, SKI team has initiated a number of project schemes in various theme areas such as education, Science and Technology (S&T), skills inventory and professional mentoring, health and environment in line with Nepal’s national priority areas and are at different stages of development.
Following priority projects, namely, Open University of Nepal Initiative with the Ministry of Education, Biotechnology and Climate Research with the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), E-library with National Planning Commission (NPC), Science Education Awareness with Nepal Press Institute (NPI) and Skill Inventory and Professional Mentoring have already been launched. Some of these initiatives involving collaboration with various governmental agencies have completed the phase of signing letter of cooperation with appropriate agencies. In the health theme, prevention and health awareness campaign project is still in the early phase of formulation and discussion.
Initiative for Open University of Nepal (OUN)
In the Open University of Nepal initiative, a significant background work has been done since its launching as the NRNA’s flagship project in Houston Conference. A total of four follow-up workshops have been held in Canada, Korea and Australia. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for collaboration has been signed between NRNA, CFFN and Athabasca University (September 2010) and a Resolution of Agreement has been signed between the NRNA and the Ministry of Education, Nepal (October 2010). OUN initiative’s Steering Committee (OUN-I-SC) has been formed to take this project to the next stage. The member secretary of OUSC and four committees Resource Mobilisation Committee (RMC), Academic Development Committee (ADC), Institutional Structure Committee (ISC) and the Learning Infrastructure Development Committee (LIDC) led by Pramod Dhakal, Ambika Adhikari, Drona Rasali, Raju Adhikari and Mahabir Pun are working to create the relevant preparatory works for OUN. Following an OUN Initiative’s call for raising seed money for developing the OUN pre-project plan, more than US$ 130,000 dollars has already been pledged by the members of the Diaspora.
S & T Projects
In this theme and as a priority project, an MoU was signed between NAST and NRNA on 5th October, 2010 and a Steering Committee has been formed comprising of members Dr Surendra Raj Kafle, Chair, NAST and Dev Man Hirachan, NRNA president. The NAST and SKI are working closely in developing and identifying priority areas and finalise project plans to explore funds from potential investors or overseas S&T organisations. Two proposals have already been identified and submitted to Australian Government to support research in the Biotechnology and Climate research areas along with fellowship scheme to Nepali scientists. A bilateral S&T agreement between NAST and Australian S&T has been proposed to support these priority initiatives. S&T Steering Committee is also working on a joint S&T conference proposal to be organised next year in October 2011 prior to the NRN global conference. The objective of this conference is to provide an interactive open discussion forum to streamline the projects in national priority areas.
Science Fellowship project
This project is the first activity based on the MOU signed between NRNA and Nepal Press Institute (NPI) in Kathmandu on 10 October, 2010. It forms a part of the resolution passed by the global conference of NRNA in Kathmandu in October, 2009 that emphasized on harnessing the potentials of science and technology for Nepal’s development. Nepal’s rural areas face special challenges in socio-economic development where 86% of the population lives. Every year, many in villages die of elementary diseases, malnutrition, and many suffer poor hygiene and sanitation. Many deaths can be prevented just through awareness creation by using the potentials of mass media. In fact, use of media can be the most cost effective and affordable means of bringing out improvement in the situation.
NPI/NRNA-SKI Team has proposed to launch a Science Reporting Scheme during 2011 as a modest venture. The scheme envisages raising grants of about US$2,000/- during the year 2011, to cover the costs of four Fellowship Programs involving the participation of science journalists and science writers. The probable themes for the Fellowships include Health education, the effects of pesticides on human health; the disposal problem of lead batteries from electric vehicles; and Environmental Hazards:
A collaborative e-library flagship project is another such initiative of SKI to promote computerisation of our schools in regional and rural Nepal to make Nepal conventional education approach to Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) based and help raise quality education for the marginalised population. This is joint collaboration between NRNA, Help Nepal Network (HeNN), Nepal Library Foundation (NLF) and National Planning Commission (NPC). The NPC has been advocating for a greater emphasis and further resources for education in rural areas to bridge the gap of education and bring marginalized population to mainstream education under the policy of Education For All by 2015. NPC has given ICT based education as its top policy priority to all future educational projects and has shown interest on this collaborative project. HeNN has been instrumental in setting up 14 e-library facilities in various parts of the country has necessary expertise, networking and experience and shown commitment to work in this project.
The ultimate goal of this collaborative project is to provide computers to secondary and primary schools in regional and rural areas to use as a tool for distance education and a source of educational materials, vocational and skill courses. The collaborative p project will provide a common platform for all other NGOs working in this area and deliver the tangible outcome in 5 years time. These computer facilities will be used as a resource centre for schools in remote areas in line with the Open University Initiatives.. The project needs a substantial financial commitment and a possible source of funding will be sought from donor agencies with matching fund from GoN.
Skills Inventory and Professional Mentoring Program
Revamping of the existing inventory of NRN professionals in the NRNA website is planned for improving information, and its usefulness in various key projects of NRNA including OUN Initiative, and those relating to science, technology and skills exchange. A professional mentoring program has been launched by NRN-Canada for officially implementing a network of professional mentoring. . Introductory information on skills and professional mentoring program can be found at: http://www.rasaliresources.com/professionalmentoring.html
The initiative is towards strengthening the existing health services in Nepal and establishing essential newer services as well as developing it as a community forum for NRNs and friends to discover avenues for improving health services in Nepal. The approach is envisaged to be preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative activities, programs, and projects. Also, the initiative would join hands to help provide both general and special medical education and research programs through the active participation of NRNs, friends of Nepal around the world and people and institutions involved in such areas within Nepal. It would primarily focus on the access to health services in Nepal with an emphasis on disadvantaged populations. This will be a collective effort on the part of NRNs to work through NRNA ICC and NRNA NCCs and has following objectives:
• to chronicle and coordinate all the health related activities of NRNA ICC / NCCs
• to establish a forum and network of interested individual NRNs and interested organizations around the world working in the health sector/medical field (services/education/research)
• to establish contacts with Ministry of Health and other related health institutions in Nepal and work in partnership to solicit Diaspora experiences in policy enhancements
• to form a bridge between the organization(s), individual(s) in Nepal and outside who are involved in health/medical sector and willing to collaborate and cooperate, and
• to prepare collaborative flagship proposals related to health care services/ medical education/ medical research and to solicit grants for their advancements.
The ultimate goal of Medical STF of NRNA is to have support in access to quality health services to all Nepali people through its continuous efforts.
SKI acknowledges the contributions and support from all ICC, NCCs, RCs for their continued guidance, advice, support to this Task force which has made this progress achievable.
(The paper was prepared by Raju Adhikari, Parmod Dhakal, Ambika Adhikari and Drona Rasali. For more information on SKI activities, please write to Raju Adhikari, Chair, SKI Task Force: firstname.lastname@example.org)