Bhupal Thapa and Hugh O'Toole
Bhupal Thapa and Hugh O'Toole

Teacher helps kids in Nepal

A RANDOM meeting with a man in Kathmandu changed the course of Murwillumbah PE teacher Hugh O'Toole's life.

The man, Bhupal Thapa, was also a teacher, in a poor rural school in the mountains miles away from the capital, where there are no roads or electricity.

The Nepalese man asked Hugh if he would sponsor his children to help with their education and he agreed.

Hugh returned to the country in 2009 with his future wife. They stayed with Bhupal's family and Hugh taught English at the high school, where he said he really saw the difference between educational opportunities for students in Australia and those in a developing country.

Overcrowded conditions and poorly trained teachers meant students found it difficult to gain enough competency in English to go on and do well in high school.

Hugh resolved to set up an NGO to give the children a better education, without them having to go to boarding school in the city, worsening the drain on rural human resources.

From that trip the Children's Learning Access Program (CLAP) was born, with the goal of building a new English medium primary school.

"Like all public schools in Nepal, especially in the rural area, Bhupal's was very poor, with mud floors, a chalkboard easel and thatched walls and roof," said Hugh, who teaches at Caningeraba State School on the Gold Coast.

Construction of the new school has been going on since that visit, but it has been very slow; a "trickle", Hugh said.

Now he has started a crowdfunding venture to bring in enough cash to complete construction, fit out classrooms and allow a management committee to run the school on enrolment income.

Hugh is going back to Nepal in January, and hopes to take enough funds to enable the school to open in April.

His crowdfunding target is $10,000, which will enable the school to pay for a small solar system, a laptop computer, room partitions and other building supplies and to make up for a shortfall in teachers' pay.

Teaching materials, including whiteboards and play equipment are also desperately needed.

The Tallebudgera Lions Club, Happy High Herbs and Caningeraba School have donated but Hugh hopes the community will also support the cause.

To donate money, visit or email

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