Trying to get Okhaldhunga in Nepal up and running
Living in Nepal, in a typical rural district (far away from the hyperconsumerism) was the beginning of a hugely important chapter in my life. I was given a chance to interact with locals and found out (other than the Nepalese culture and tradition) how the public education system really works in this country. By visiting many schools in the region and having long talks with truly amazing teachers, I was able to recognize the hidden difficulty and get round some unforeseen setbacks there. At the beginning of my work as a teacher and a person who was in charge of Children’s Development in Okhaldhunga, it often happened that I had trouble understanding the working of a school and the schoolteachers’ mentality. After making a short reconnaissance, I had finally got to know what is wrong with it and started acting on that in order to remedy the situation.
It's a fact that my mission was to spread the information relating to Children’s Club (CC) and, most importantly, create it in the region. The CC is a special group that gives youngsters' imagination broad scope and an unusual possibility to be active in a class as well as in the local community. Personally, I believe that Children’s Clubs were brought into being by a lot of hard work, but met with success. I'd been forming and restoring them in schools in Taluwa and Nishankhe for months. The meeting in a classroom always began with an ice-breaking game. At every possible opportunity there was a discussion among the students concerning: the meaning of Children’s Club, the importance and the work of it. Definitely, the crucial moment was to present to pupils the information about the structure of CC and the roles (rights and responsibilities) that every member has within: President, Vice President, General Secretary, Secretary, Treasurer, Vice-treasurer and some members. Obviously, the children were told about the main aims: developing personalities and leadership, providing with the suitable situation and atmosphere to them where they can show their own talents and interests, developing their self-confidence, creating extra-curricular activities, increasing good relationships etc. To choose representatives interested in participating in CC, it was required to organize a democratic voting among all students. That way Mother´s Club had been created, and the leaders, the name of club and the coordinator (Children´s Club Facilitator Teacher) had been chosen. At that stage of formation, schoolchildren, equipped with knowledge, were prepared to undertake new activities. I was excited to listen to their brilliant ideas they’re going to hold in the future: The Wall Magazine, Singing/dancing/painting/drawing/spell/sport contests, Cleaning the Environment Activities, Books Exchange, English Language Contest etc... I keep my fingers crossed, I believe in the power of young people, their views will come true eventually... Surely it’s possible to realize their marvellous ambitions and plans. Not only that, but also teachers were received the poster and told about a proper education and Children´s Rights regarding the main topic: “What are the practical aspects of adhering to children’s rights in school?”. They had an occasion to acquire new knowledge, skills and competences. They quickly absorbed all the information. Now they see their way clear to changing the world...and I have a great respect for them. The last week of my stay in Shree Himalaya Secondary School in Nishankhe was extremely successful. All children attended the Children Summer Camp. During the summer break, they took part in many activities they liked the most: painting and drawing workshops, dancing and singing classes, an incredibly creative origami training, flowers and plants collage workshops, English language classes and popular sports. No question, it was the source of fun. Young participants felt very happy and full of excitement, and they couldn’t hardly wait for new games. Besides, I was amazed how imaginative the students were in the course of art classes. Their work was really impressive.
As far as I’m concerned, my voluntary work in Nepal enabled me to take a closer look at a learning environment. There’s little doubt that schools in rural areas in Nepal are quite poor and have to struggle with many problems. The first thing I noticed about the place is a building complex... Sadly, everywhere educational facilities are not safe and comfortable. It’s visible to the naked eye that the buildings are not properly constructed, therefore, they are hazardous. Furthermore, the classrooms are dark and dirty, chairs and desks aren't convenient. Too many children work in tiny rooms with small or blocked windows. Apart from that, there’s a lack of electricity and appropriate airflow, no dustbin, no whiteboards, no didactic materials (marker pens, games, posters, some toys, shelves etc.). There aren’t appropriate sanitation facilities. Additionally, some outdoor toilets seem to be nonfunctional and there’s no running water so teachers need to carry it in plastic bottles. To my mind, there should be a space for recreational activities, a playground outside to have a rest, leisure and play. Actually, children's education facilities aren’t accessible to the disabled. During the rain the walls become really wet and there’s some water inside the classrooms. For all these reasons, I’m convinced that a sharp revolution in the schools, just making them better in Okhaldhunga District, is simply essential. Yeah...it’s a truism. Many times, when I came back home after the classes, I couldn't get rid of that strange feeling that I was in no position to force the Government of Nepal to start thinking about a new physical infrastructure of a school. In my opinion, education is the single most important factor in the development of a country. I'm one hundred percent sure, there’s a prospect of improvement in those educational establishments.
However, beyond that list of some weaknesses, I must admit that I got a good impression... Let me explain why...a central idea of my job in Okhaldhunga was to focus on PEOPLE, both children and teachers who were always eager to learn and keen on developing themselves. I got on well with many inspiring schoolteachers, cheerful students, clever farmers, resourceful workers, most of all, the members of my host family — they treated me like royalty and I felt at home there. I just comprehended, although we represent completely different cultural backgrounds, we have a lot of things in common. There’s no doubt that this district is ultimate and still needs some advancement. I’m really glad I had an opportunity to give some support. A long time of coexistence with nature and among the locals pointed me that it was an experience of a lifetime.