Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Storms, computers and head teachers....

After our visit to Bagnas, our next school was Bhalebas Bhagwati. Torrential rain and strong wind the night before we set off made the journey difficult, and played havoc with the electricity both in Tansen and the village. After a 4x4 experience that people would pay good money for in the UK, we arrived at the school. The rain did not dampen the warm and enthusiastic welcome we received from the staff. Sadly, the weather meant the children were only able to spend an hour in school so we’d have to wait a day to do some teaching. We were delighted to discover that the school has recently obtained 5 brand new desktop computers, due to a tremendous fund raising effort by the village committee and some funds from the government. We added to these 3 laptops, generously donated by a school in Dinnington, to make a real PC suite. We spent some time in the afternoon training the school staff and excited village committee on the laptops, although the power cuts meant this could only last as long as the batteries. We enjoyed the village’s hospitality in the evening, and I got my first taste of the locally brewed ‘raksi’, a rather tasty spirit made from rice.

By morning the weather had improved greatly and we were able to get about to some teaching! Barbara spent most of the day teaching English while I took groups from years 6, 7 and 8 to the ICT room (with the electricity mostly working once again!) For many of the children this was the first time they had ever actually used a computer so we focused on getting them familiar with the keyboard and mouse. The children really enjoyed the practical and hands on nature of the work and there were lots of smiles and laughter. There is plenty to build upon when I go back, with a talented young ICT teacher in place at the school already, so I finished the day feeling very excited about the possibilities here.

Another 4x4 experience took us to Navadurga Pipaldanda, where Manisha UK have been supporting an extensive rebuild of the school. The work carried out is very encouraging and should be completed in plenty of time for me to see it finished before leaving Nepal. The ground floor classrooms are mostly complete and plaster was going up in one of the second floor rooms. After a tour of the school we were invited to ‘puja’ (prayers) by some of the villages and given a delicious meal cooked in massive communal pots, and meat placed straight on the flyer. Remembering the balloons in my bag suddenly made me very popular with the children and it really was a great experience. That evening we said goodbye to Bhuwan, who returned to Kathmandu. His help both in Kathmandu and the schools was hugely valued and he’s very much missed, although there is no shortage of support from Saran, Sagar and a host of others.

Around this time we started to hear the news of the terrible events unfolding in Annapurna, which left a number of Nepalese and foreigners dead and injured. From Tansen we can see a little of the mountain range in which these terrible scenes unfolded and my thoughts have very much been with those affected.

Finally this week we held our first training day, to which we invited our head teachers and their deputies. We had a great turn out and everyone was really enthusiastic about the ideas we shared for planning. There are some wonderful leaders and teachers here and through sharing their ideas we hope they’ll be able to improve their planning and move their schools forward even more than they currently are. I was so encouraged to hear today that one school arranged a meeting with the village council straight after our training to discuss their action plan for the next months, showing they’d really taken on board everything we’d done.

We are now starting the Tihar festival here meaning schools will be closed for a few days, but we’re keeping busy with photocopying, planning and preparing resources, although not so busy that we won’t enjoy another fantastic cultural experience!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My first week in Nepal - blown away!

I arrived in Nepal with Barbara on Tuesday 7th October, where we were met at the airport by a former Manisha volunteer, Bhuwan, who gave us a very warm welcome and helped us to find our hotel. We spent the next few days shopping for resources to take out to the schools and once again Bhuwan`s help was absolutely indispensable. Without him I'm sure we'd still be looking for the first shop we wanted to visit, and paying far higher prices everywhere as well!

After a few days in Kathmandu we took the bus to Tansen, (heavy with bags of resources!) which will be our base while in schools. I was prepared for the 10 hour bus journey with Kindle, music and films, but needed none of them as I spent to entire journey glued to the window taking in the magnificent views, and the goings on in the villages we passed through. Arriving in Tansen, we again received an incredible welcome, first from Saran, our schools coordinator, at the bus station, then from the Bashyal family at Horizon Homestay, our rather excellent home in Tansen.

Today (Monday 13th) we made our first school visit, to Basanta Bagnas school, just a two mile walk away. They have added two new classrooms, being used by nursery and reception classes, and new toilets since Manisha's last visit and the rooms are fantastic. Over the coming weeks we'll provide some resources and displays for the walls to make them look even better. It was great to see some local teachers in action and have some conversations with them about what they doing and how it compares to how we teach in the UK. The teachers we spoke to were very receptive to the new ideas and I'm looking forward to going back there and working with those teachers over several days. We looked in on some English lessons and introduced some role play, which the children were a little shy about at first, but they soon warmed up and began to enjoy themselves. The children were so enthusiastic about seeing us, especially when the camera came out!

My first week in Nepal has been simply amazing. The magnificent views, the friendliest people, and the brilliant children have made it such an experience and I'm looking forward to the next six months here more than ever! The next school visit is tomorrow at Bhalebas Bhagwati and it can't come quickly enough.

Note: This blog was meant to go up a few days ago, but a combination of storms, power cuts and flat batteries have delayed it a little. More on that and more school visits in the next instalment!