|with Khim and Simon outside the district hospital|
This past week I (Dan) travelled with my colleague Simon, former ICT teacher and new ICT teacher trainer, out to a rural part of Nepal called Lamjung to visit one of the projects of KISC EQUIP, the teacher training branch of KISC. Lamjung is about 150km (and a 7 hour bus ride) to the West of Kathmandu and only 30km from the epicentre of April’s earthquake. However, as most of the force of the quake went East there was very little damage evident even compared to Kathmandu which was more than 100km from the epicentre.
EQUIP works with a number of schools in the Lamjung area, and the EQUIP team had already been there for 5 days by the time we showed up. This visit included following up on trainings given on their last visit, classroom observations of teachers, giving out scholarships, setting up classroom libraries and doing some trainings.
|The hospital walls were painted with simple health advice such as on how and why to wash your hands |
and this one which says "Lets brush our teeth well"
KISC works in Lamjung because of its connection to the region through the district hospital. This is run by HDCS, the Nepali NGO which also owns KISC. So the first thing that happened was that Khim Kandel, the head of EQUIP and fellow Director of KISC, took us to the hospital where we were showed round by two doctors, one Nepali and one American. The American is a former KISC parent as he and his wife had spent 18 months in Kathmandu learning language before moving to Lamjung. Their eldest daughter had attended KISC during that time. It was great to see the impact of KISC again in this way, knowing that we’d been able to support this family while they prepared for their role in this important district hospital.
|Walking to school|
The Nepali doctor explained that this hospital was the only one in the district and served 40,000 outpatients a year. Many patients lived in the rural areas around and would walk for up to 2 days to get to this hospital. While many of these rural areas are now served by local health posts, these are obviously not enough for villagers that need significant care. They also proudly showed us their maternity unit. The Infant mortality rate in Nepal is still quite high and so the government is giving 4,000 Nepal rupees (about £25) to mothers who do 4 anti-natal visits and give birth in the hospital – a significant incentive. The hospital had about 1200 mothers give birth last year. The visit to the hospital concluded with the obligatory Masala Chiyaa (Nepali spiced tea) in the courtyard as we discussed the state of healthcare in Nepal.
|Line up in the school yard.|
|Khim reading with a student, new classroom library|
The next day it was time to visit one of the local Nepali schools. This school was about an hour’s walk from the town we were staying in and was situated in a small village nestled in a scenic valley. As we walked to the village we passed a number of young people in school uniform heading towards the town we were leaving. These were children who attended one of the private schools in the town rather than staying in the village to go to the government school we were visiting. Last year just under 50% of 16 year olds passed their School Leaving certificate, but that figure was significantly lower in government schools. Khim shared the story of one young girl he knew of from the village who walked the 2 hour round trip 3 times a day to visit market to sell milk in the morning and evening as well as attend school. It highlighted to us the urgency of EQUIP's work helping to improve the government schools so that parents feel they can send their children to the local school rather than spending money they don’t really have and requiring their children to travel long distances (many travel much further than a 2 hour round trip) to attend private schools which are barely better resourced than the government schools.
The school started with line-up in the courtyard and approximately 150 students who ranged from pre-Kindergarten up to Grade 10 (16 years old) spread out across the grass courtyard and were then lead through some simple drilled exercises before singing the national anthem. After this we met with the principal and then headed to grade 3 where we were giving the school a classroom library. These small libraries which are very light weight contain about 30 age-appropriate books for the students. Khim explained to the students how to care for the books and got one child to read to the class before helping them think about the benefits of reading. He encouraged them to keep a record of how much they read and promised a prize on his next visit to the child who had read the most.
|The "ICT Lab"|
After this we went to check out the school’s ICT lab. This consisted of 6 rather dusty computers that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a lab 15 years ago. None of them were working so Simon and I set about getting them working. For the most part this just consisted of connecting them up, but Simon also managed to fix one that wasn’t working at all. The next question was what to do with them now they were working, that is something the Nepal government are working on and will become Simon’s job in his new role as ICT teacher trainer.
|Some of the EQUIP team with the Principal and grateful |
mothers of scholarship recepients
Our final task of the day was to give out scholarships. Even though this is a government school there are still costs involved, such as uniform, stationary, exam fees and a few other additional costs. These scholarships were only about £50 for the year, but this is a significant amount of money for many of these families who live hand to mouth. The families showed their appreciation by decking each of us with a Maalaa, a garland of flowers, a traditional symbol of appreciation in Nepal. The six of us who visited that school looked rather fetching as we posed for photos with the parents.
The next day we visited a second school and this one followed a similar pattern, and we also got to see a training on “Checking for Understanding”, given by one of the EQUIP Nepali teacher trainers. It was really great to see these guys who we know from around KISC in their natural environment, working with Nepali teachers to improve the quality of education across Nepal. It was a great trip and one I am very thankful to have been able to be part of.