A little over two months ago KP Oli became the Prime Minister of the country. In the first statement he makes as the executive, captured in a video, starting at the 2:12 min mark, he says that the first and important decision his government has made is to replace the existing 350 tuins in rural Nepal with suspension bridges within two years.
(A slap in the face of the victims of the April 25 and May 12 earthquakes, I thought, but there you have it. By that time, the government of Nepal had let seven months pass leaving them to their own devices for the winter.)
Tuins, wire bridges, consist of a long metallic rod suspended across rivers which you hang off of and cross the river on by sliding along it. I grew up seeing a number of them stretched across Trishuli and Ghandaki rivers every time I traveled between Kathmandu and Pokhara on school holidays in the late seventies and early eighties.
Education, more than anything, I believe, will change Nepal. But, in parts of the country, tuins are the only way for children to get to school, like the children of Chamdada village featured in the video below, schools that are under-funded, under-resourced and under-staffed etc. etc. etc.
To reiterate what the elderly woman towards the end says:
“Everybody says that there is nothing like education. Even I think so. Education is actual wealth. In hope of good life, I am educating them.”
Talking about the treacherous path between home and school, she says:
“I always used to be worried. The way is difficult, and it gets worse in bad weather. I was helpless. I used to be in tears until my children came home.
Nothing has changed. Now my grandchildren are facing the same difficulties.
I always pray to God for their return home.”
Here’s another video featuring a woman ferrying a load of firewood across a tuin over a raging river.
Contrary to what many leaders of Nepal and many in Kathmandu would like to believe, those outside of the valley know and understand the importance of education, as demonstrated by the lady featured in the video.
Nepalese with no formal education, going as far back as forty years, recognized the importance of formal education. I am talking about no other than my own parents and their generation from my little village of Tangbe, in Mustang district, a people the Kathmandu elite have had a colonialist attitude towards and treated with condescension as recently as the early nineties, and probably still do, just as they are doing right now the Madhesis, Nepalese living in the Southern Plains.
The challenge is, firstly, to make it considerably more accessible and, secondly, to improve its quality.
By the way, it goes without saying that KP Oli will NOT replace all 350 tuins within two years! I would love to be proven wrong though…LOVE…to be proven wrong!
November 29, 2016 Update
The following is a virtual reality documentary of children crossing dangerous rivers to get to school, made — after the April 25, 2015 earthquake — by Christian Stephen.
August 5, 2018 Update
About three years since KP Oli’s proclamation that all the Tuins would be replaced within two years, 26 are yet to be replaced. If indeed 324 have been replaced, that is quite an accomplishment actually!!
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Tuin River Crossing. A description of an improved tuin technology!
Kantipur (June 11, 2018) अझै तुइनबाटै वारपार (Still Travelling by Tuins). दुई वर्षमा सबै तुइन हटाउने सरकारी लक्ष्य पूरा भएन | ठेकेदारको लापरबाहीले झोलुंगे पुल योजना अलपत्र. (Government’s aim to replace all ruins in two years not completed. Contractor to blame for the suspension bridge not being built.) [Added on June 17, 2018.]
Setopati (Aug. 9, 2020). ललितपुरका चारसहित ४५ ठाउँमा सकिन्न तुइन हटाएर झोलुंगे पुल बनाउन. 45 tuins cannot be replaced with bridges. [Added on Aug. 9, 2020.]