Expanding Education for Rural Communities
In 2015, I arrived in Nepal to continue my research focused on migrant labor in the Middle East. I had interviewed a Nepalese migrant worker in Doha, who at the very end, stated that to understand why many migrants were exploited, I should interview some people from his home country and learn about the illegal recruitment system. He put me in touch with his brother, who is the community leader of Kushadevi, a small village 100 kilometers East of Kathmandu. I would spent a month in the rural countryside, where I would befriend the villagers and children. The flaws in their education system were shocking. The community leader and I would work together to reform the system on a grassroots level for the next few years.
The 2015 earthquake in Nepal shook the entire entire country, distracting young people from their daily education. Thousands of people lost their lives, and many more houses and schools were damaged. A large number of people became homeless and lived in a temporary shelter usually made from bamboo or metal sheets. Education took a huge hit as a result. Books and schools supplies were ruined and unusable. Many children stopped their education to help their families.
School were closed for a whole month after the quake, but in partnership with their community, district education office, local NGOs etc, most of them were able to build a Temporary Learning Center (TLC). Gradually, children started attending classes again, though it was hard for many to focus. The circumstances had given them double responsibilities: carry on their formal education at the TLC and support their families to rebuild their houses.
Already in Nepal, the number of the student enrollment in government schools was decreasing yearly. Despite government investment in education, test scores were not improving. Government funded (public) schools in Nepal were unpopular because parents did not believe their children could get a high quality education. Teachers were unmotivated, and attendance rate was low. After the earthquake, there were few choices parents had.
the model school project
Along with the community leader, we built the Rural Community Foundation (RCF) Nepal, meant to work on the grassroots level to attract villagers toward the government funded schools. Is it a partnership with the School Management Committee and the community to maintain quality education in public schools. To achieve build trust among the community, we held discussions with parents to develop the local community school into a model school. We used various learning and teaching techniques, incorporating art, music, and physical education into a creative school environment. Motivated teachers were hired from local universities and taught as volunteers in exchange for class credit.
Once the success of the model school is realized, we would expand into other schools in the district.
1) Creative Youth Club (CYC) formation & mobilization through Youth Volunteers
We established a Creative Youth Club (CYC) in four government funded schools in Kushadevi, Rayale and Bhumidanda VDCs. A well-trained youth volunteer in each school would facilitate its creation. All the members of the CYC would be trained on how to conduct the creative activities in their schools. All activities by the CYC were established to connect youths to fulfilling their roles in the post earthquake situation. We used a competition system with awards to incentive creativity.
2) Creative Building Competition (CBC) in the proposed project schools
CBC was aimed at developing creativity among the youths and encouraging them to support their parents in rebuilding their homes. Children were asked to build various objects using local resources such as wood, mud, stone, straw etc. An evaluation committee would reward to the three most creative projects.
3) Interactive events for instructors
The headmaster from each project school were invited to an interaction event to discuss how they can learn from each other and work together to develop their school as the center of their community. Following this interaction event, they would attend formal training and exposure to the teachers from other schools. These events would occur once every quarter
4) Creative classroom environment
Children will have access to monthly or quarterly music classes, art classes, and sports events. These classes are meant to encourage interaction and creativity.
The model school project expanded to three different villages
And still continues to expand today