I am currently a Primary School teacher, teaching at Bristol Grammar School (a large co-ed Independent School in the centre of Bristol). In January 2018, I was lucky to be given a sabbatical from my school to try to setup links with a school / schools in Nepal. I contacted Pahar Trust Nepal and they kindly put me in contact with Shree Thechambo School Secondary, near Taplejung in the remote East of Nepal.
The staff and pupils at Thechambo welcomed me but initially I was surprised by how little English they knew or could use which made communication challenging. The school is exceedingly remote, with no real transport to and from it and no electricity or phone connection in the area. I stayed in a guest house, run by Soneta (who didn’t speak English) who did her best to look after me with limited resources. I lived on two meals of Dal Bhat a day, with no running water or electricity for just over four weeks!
During my time there, I taught English and observed the education system. I was shocked at how regimented everything was with all lessons being lectured with limited or no pupil interaction. Computer lessons were taught from a text book with no computers in sight and pupils were asked to repeat everything by rote. There was also no lesson planning carried out so I tried to demonstrate a different approach to learning and shared western ideas for teaching with the school. The staff at Thechambo made me exceedingly welcome and seemed to relish fresh ideas and approaches. I presented the school with a cheque for over £2000 which has now been used to purchase laptops.
Having realised communication to Thechambo was limited I transferred to another school (and was joined there by my 20-year-old daughter) only an hour from Kathmandu. This was Shree Kalika Secondary School, near Nagerkot. I saw a very different school – more enthusiastic teachers and more interaction with pupils. Again I was made very welcome by all. This school has had much more materially, but a great deal was lost in the Earthquakes of 2015 and much of it has not yet been replaced. A lot of families in the area still live in exceedingly poor accommodation which was set up as a temporary measure. We taught and observed at the school and I set up a link with the pupils.
I returned to England at Easter 2018 and since then have continued corresponding with the staff at both schools. Pupils from BristolGrammar School write every week to the Kalika school pupils and I have a large team of boys and girls developing this. Earlier this term my English school held a Nepalese Day where we involved the Bristol Nepalese Community to learn some of the language as well as doing Nepalese Dancing, singing and Art. More money was raised (this time for Kalika School) and so £1500 has now been sent to help them replace carpets and tables and chairs that were damaged in the Earthquake.
I will never forget my experience in Nepal and hope to return in the not too distant future. This experience has demonstrated to me the importance of the continued support of schools to improve the quality of the education provided including improved pedagogy and engagement. Pupils at Bristol Grammar are learning a great deal about this very different culture and hopefully the Nepalese Schools have benefitted too. I am very grateful to PaharTrust Nepal for assisting me with this venture and hope that the link can be continued for years to come.