Inclusiveness not just theory in this school

Kanya Mandir in Kathmandu puts inclusiveness into practice by balancing education with religious tolerance


Aliya Bashar finished up her Grade 6 class exams and swiftly walked over to a room next door at her Kanya Mandir Secondary School in Kathmandu.

Other students join in and together they offer namaz. This is an important time of year for Bashar, not only because of her annual exams but also because of the holy month of Ramadan.

"It is a relief not to have to rush home for prayers at 1 pm," Bashar tells us later. "The school provides a space for namaz, making it easier for us to focus on exams."

With a week left for the end of Ramadan, Muslims eat before dawn and fast throughout the day with afternoon prayers at 1pm. They break fast with a collective iftar feast after sunset.

Recognising the challenges of its Muslim minority students, Kanya Mandir School provides a dedicated space for them to offer prayers immediately after the exams.

Kanya Mandir Secondary School

"Having a prayer room makes everything easier,” says Salma Khatun, a Grade 8 student. "And the school also allows us to dress in clothes we are comfortable in.”

The school’s inclusive environment has helped students like Bashar and Khatun thrive. They participate in sports wearing the hijab, something not possible at many other schools.

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Jasmin Shaikh in Grade 7 says she faces no hate and discrimination at school. “Students of all religions are treated equally here,” she says.

Kanya Mandir Secondary School

Muskan Khatun says being allowed to wear the hijab in class makes her feel safe and supported. Khatun who is originally from India says she feels a sense of belonging at the school. “There are no restrictions here, even the school feels like home,” she says, smiling.

The Kanya Mandir School’s commitment to inclusiveness extends beyond Ramadan, and extends to the cultural practices of students from all faiths, including Hindu, Buddhist and Christian.

Kanya Mandir Secondary School

"The hijab does not hinder the students in any way," says Assistant Principal Bhagwan Babu Adhikari. “In fact, our top performers are girls from the Muslim community."

The welcoming environment has boosted the school’s appeal, and some 245 of the 1,170 students at the school are from Nepal’s Muslim minority.

Kanya Mandir Secondary School

"School is where children develop compassion, tolerance, good behaviour," says Principal Ghanashyam Neupane. "We are simply trying to create an environment that fosters these values." 

This approach promotes respect for different religions, cultures, and traditions, inculcating a sense of camaraderie among students when young, he adds.

Kanya Mandir Secondary School

Nepal’s Tarai plains bordering India where there are more Muslims have more traditional madrasa schools which focus mainly on religious studies. Students say they prefer mainstream schools so it helps them get into good colleges. 

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Not all madrasa have Nepal’s educational accreditation, and this limits career options for students. Many Muslim girls prefer public and private schools, but not all have a welcoming environment like Kanya Mandir.

Kanya Mandir Secondary School

"We must uphold the constitutional rights of every child and ensure schools become inclusive spaces," says Seema Khan of the Muslim Mahila Kalyan Samaj. “They should follow Kanya Mandir’s example and adopt an inclusive education policy that reflects Nepal's rich social tapestry."