Sudurpaschim Province all set to institutionalise Ayurveda education


The Kathmandu Post

- ARJUN SHAH- DHANGADHI, One year after the implementation of the federal governance system in the country, officials in Sudurpaschim Province are introducing Ayurveda and yoga studies in the region’s official curricula, making it mandatory for all schools to teach classes starting from the upcoming academic calendar.

The Provincial Ministry of Social Development and Health Directorate said it also plans to set up an Ayurveda academy and herbal collection and processing centre in the region.

According to chief of Education Division at the ministry Jhankar Bista, the Ayurveda Unit-a division under the Ministry of Social Development-has been tasked with preparing the school curriculum.  
Included as ‘optional’, the subject will be taught from grades 6 to 12. Bista said, “We are in the process of preparing the curriculum focussing on the board examinations. It will carry 50 full marks like any other optional subjects.”

A team under Dr Chetraj Joshi, a yoga doctor at the ministry, is gearing up for the assigned duty. “We are preparing a curriculum that contains an introduction to and importance of Ayurveda, yoga and pranayam,” Joshi told the Post. “The subject will also include the study on the positive effects of yoga in healing various diseases and in enhancing memory power and confidence level in a person.”

The Ayurveda Unit, in coordination with various government agencies, is working simultaneously to prepare the curriculum, train yoga instructors and launch yoga practice in the institutions across the province.   

Several community schools in the province have already started conducting yoga classes. “In the first phase, around 10,000 students from 200 schools have been included for yoga classes. This exercise kicked off in these schools about two weeks ago,” said Joshi.

He said regular yoga practice improves memory and thinking ability in children and enhances their self-confidence and helps develop their personality. “There are so many benefits of yoga both for physical and mental well-being. That’s why we decided to include it as a subject of study in the school curriculum,” he said. 

In the initial phase, the Provincial Health Directorate plans to select and train yoga instructors from among employees of Ayurveda institutions set up by the government. There are 42 such institutions in nine districts in the province. 

The directorate provided a five-day special training to the heads of all 42 Ayurveda institutions about two months ago and dispatched them to the villages. 

Dr Gunraj Awasthi, Director at the Provincial Health Directorate, said that heads of the institutions will be assigned to conduct yoga classes for students in collaboration with instructors from Patanjali Nepal. When asked about the organisational involvement of Patanjali in the initiative, Awasthi said that they are seeking help from India-based consumer goods company only to train yoga instructors. “We approached Patanjali only for technical support for the training,” he said.

Following the approval from the provincial council of ministers, a proposed bill regarding the Ayurveda Academy has reached the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Law. The provincial government hopes to develop the 50-bed hospital in Rajpur, Dhangadhi to house the academy. According to Dr Khagendra Bam at the Ayurveda Unit, officials are planning to run classes for Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Master of Science (MS) in Ayurveda at the academy. The provincial government has allocated Rs 20 million for the academy in the current fiscal year.

The hill districts of Sudurpaschim Province are the storehouses of several precious medicinal herbs. The provincial government plans to merge yoga practices and Ayurvedic studies in the local units to raise awareness about the benefits of these sister sciences (Ayurveda attributes the healing side of yoga; yoga is known to complement the spiritual side of Ayurveda). 

To advance that goal, the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment has allocated Rs 100 million to establish a medicinal herbs collection and processing centre.

Since the news about the government’s plans has become public, local farmers and herbal traders are hopeful about their livelihood. This step, they say, will boost herbal farming which will pave the way to self-sufficiency for farmers like themselves in the region. 

“Medicinal herbs are supplied to India and China from this region. If the locals receive formal education on these subjects, they will be able to monetise their knowledge and trade,” said Dharmajung Bahadur Singh, Chairman of Herbal Trader Association in Bajhang. “With income-generating prospects, the establishment of such collection and processing centres will be a boon for the local population.”

A number of other local units in the region have also prioritised herbal farming in the province with Gauri-Ganga Municipality in Kailali district, allocating Rs5 million for herbal farming this fiscal year alone.