Monday, February 23, 2015

An unexpected journey (or 4)

After my visit to Jandeep school at Dumre, my next stop was Basanta Primary School at Bagnas. This is always a nice school to visit, not least because it is so easy to get to, being just a 45 minute walk away! It is also always interesting, as I tend to turn up here without giving any notice to the school so arrive to see a 'normal' day with no special preperatations. 

I took class 5 to make some leaflets about animals, as I have done at several schools recently. Like everywhere else, the children loved having the chance to be creative and it was clearly a big treat to have the colouring pencils and felt-tip pens out! All the children went to their text books to find animal pictures they could copy. While I loved to see the initiative they took, it again highlights the lack of opportunities for creative activities that they couldn't create their own pictures from scratch. 
The school has a good library, which has been provided by Room to Read, another NGO working to improve education in Nepal. Each class gets the chance to go in once a week and read books of their own choice. As well as books there were a number of toys and games in the library which were being underused, so I took these to nursery where the children were thrilled! It was clear they hadn't used many toys like these before, few of them thought of putting building blocks on top of each other. Instead, the blocks became cars and airplanes but it was great to see so much imagination and laughter! 

After my visit to Basanta school, I had to make a trip to Kathmandu to visit the British Embassy. While I've had my share of bad bus journeys in Nepal, this was the worst yet, being squeezed into the back seat of a minibus with leg room for a hobbit for 10 hours, and the return was not much better! This was a journey I had never imagined I would be taking when I came to Nepal, as the reason for visiting the embassy was to get a certificate allowing me to get married! A lot can happen in four months but marriage is certainly a surprise that will take some beating! 

A couple of days after returning to Tansen it was off to the temple for the marriage ceremony! While I spent most of the day being confused about what exactly I was meant to be doing (and understanding the significance or meaning of virtually nothing) by the end of the day I was married to my beautiful new wife, Bimala. It was a great days with friends and new family here in Nepal and I'm very happy and excited to be married and to know my involvement with Nepal won't be ending when I head back to England in 5 weeks time! 

Having the marriage made legal is a little less fun, with Nepali administration being incapable of organising a cup of coffee, let alone a marriage certificate! But after countless visits to various people in government offices we are slowly getting there and I will be returning to England as a married man!

Friday, February 06, 2015


This week I have visited Jandeep School in Dumre. This school goes from Nursery class up to year 9, and I managed to spend at least one lesson with every class. 

Putting the days of the week in order
The younger primary school children really loved having the chance to make some noise and be active in lessons. At many of the schools I visit the children start very shy, but here the children couldn't wait to start playing some learning games! We played a lot of racing games, with some coloured card on the floor and two children racing to the colour I shouted out. At the end of the lesson the children didn't want to let me leave until they'd all had another go! It is certainly a far more effective technique for teaching colour that the rote learning they usually get. In kindergarten I started showing some colours and was delighted when the children started to sing them all with spellings; "B-L-U-E blue, R-E-D, red.... etc", but when I asked them to match the word to the colour on the board not one of them was able to do it. Take note the effect of too many exams (4 per year!) and too much rote learning Ms Morgan!! 

Colouring fun
I made some more animal leaflets for Dumre's twin school with year 5. Once again they loved having the chance to do some creative drawing and use colour pencils and pens. It was hard to restrict them to drawing animals though, they all loved drawing flowers (it turns out this is something they were remarkably good at). So many of the leaflets heading back to the UK are decorated with roses, marigolds and all sorts of other flowers in addition to some local animals. 

I'm on fire! 
While in Jandeep I had the chance to observe some trainee teachers on teaching practice. I'm sorry to say that the standard was quite worrying and the poor training here is clearly a major factor in the general poor quality of schools. Two young trainees teaching a maths lesson spent the entire 40 minutes writing the calculations on the board for the children to copy, but they also gave them the answers, so the children did no work for themselves! There was no modelling or explanation, in English or Nepali and the entire lesson was wasted. As if that wasn't enough, the calculations on the board were covered in mistakes, so any children who were managing to pick up something would have also learnt these errors. I decided to do the same lesson the next day as I would teach it, to show the teachers some different ideas. While they both agreed to this, neither of them were in school the following day. I re-did the lesson regardless as the children certainly needed it (and in teaching it again I could see they certainly hadn't learnt anything the previous day!). The government in Nepal desperately needs to address the poor quality of training and the curriculum. Fighting against these combined forces is certainly not making the task of Manisha UK any easier! 
Playing in nursery 

Working with the secondary school classes I was generally impressed with their reading and writing skills. However, the speaking and listening skills were desperately poor. Again, the Nepali curriculum bears much of the blame for this, as the text books are geared this way. Dumre school is fortunate to have a couple of teachers with exceptionally good English but the pupils need to hear this much more often and have the chance to speak (and chanting / repeating is not the same as speaking) themselves. 

Despite the concerns I had a wonderful few days at the school and was sorry to leave. As always I was well looked after by all the students and staff and I am sad that I won't have the chance to see most of them again during this years training program. This weekend brings a long bus journey to Kathmandu to collect some documents from the British Embassy, 8 hours each way for a piece of paper is quite frustrating!