SCHOOL VISITS RESUME
Planning the teacher training is becoming urgent as Saran and I will resume school visits soon but there are always catching up jobs and resources to make and tidying the office.
On Tuesday evening we had three Australian guests who arrived very tired from India. They are all roughly my age and had been ‘on the road’ for two days. A combination if heat, dust, traffic and landslide hold-ups didn’t help – Tansen is a great relief and a lovely place to ‘layup’. They are such lovely people and it’s good to speak ‘normal English again. Yes, I should learn to speak Nepali better.
Typical of many guest, the Aussies are fundraisers providing for a family of eight in Kathmandu and for the extended family in the village that was badly affected by the earthquakes of 2015. The help ensures all six children go to school and are well dressed in uniform. Johnny, the seasoned traveller who first visited Nepal 40 years ago and who had fond memories of Freak Street in Kathmandu, was accompanied by his sister, Helen, and friend Michael from Perth and close to.
|Ikue's birthday - in the morning|
Wednesday was Ikue’s birthday and in the way to the office we went to the new museum in Tansen Palace. During the Maoist rebellion the palace was destroyed using explosives. It had been rebuilt and you can get a sense of its former glory as it has 63 rooms, with the exception of about 6 rooms devoted to the museum so far, the rest are empty. The museum could be greatly expanded and some of the rooms used for a much needed library. Of course, it all comes down to money and there are patently other much more important projects for the town. But with the development of Bharirawa airport, three hours to the south, becoming an international airport in 2 (?) years, Tansen will have to step up to be a worthwhile tourist centre. It doesn’t help that the municipality allow the demolition of traditional houses in town to be replaced by ugly concrete structures. They could buy up an old house and, with some sensitive renovation, open it to the public.
Ikue and I had a long talk about the mentality and challenges in Nepal. For someone like her on a two year placement, it can be so frustrating. Working towards women’s development and empowerment, she is working on a project with village women to make candles out if bees wax that is normally thrown away after the barrel hives are harvested for lovely honey. After lunch at our usual haunt, I work in the office doing a lot of laminated Maths and Science sheets.
In the evening I’m surprised and delighted by the arrival of a lovely Dutchman, Hub; he and his wife Tini stayed at the homestay for two separate visits last year. Tini has stayed at home as 69 year old Hup is planning to di a 15 day trek in the Annapurna region. He has a great sense of humour and is incredibly laid back – a sharp contrast to many guests who are ‘doing’ Nepal in a very short time. We celebrated Ikue’s birthday with a cake and some beers, refreshing Gorkha beers on a warm Nepali evening.
Woke to the news that Kashuo Ishiguro had won the Nobel Prize for literature. I had been telling Ikue about him and have just read ‘When We Were Orphans’. After an impromptu lunch with the Aussies, I returned to the office. In the evening we were entertained by the three year old daughter of Dhani’s niece Kamela who was helping Janiki out as she has to rest her arm for another two weeks.
Saturday was a big tidying up and washing day, it’s amazing how my small room can get so messy but I do keep a lot of things in there. I began to feel quite sad that I only have two weeks before I leave and so many things I want to do but I have to be pragmatic. Anyway feel good that I have ‘purged’ and think of home, Geoff and everybody else.
Early start for the bus for Bhalebas where Saran will meet me on his motor bike at the bottom of the Chaap track. Not five minutes later, people called me as there was a jeep going up the track and they said to get in. I was joined by two teachers on our way up and a child from the school, a tiny cute four year old who normally walks up the track on his own for 20 minutes! They start them young here.
It was a good day in the school working with older children at first. As their teacher was absent, we had a great lesson with them giving ideas if what they would do if they were head teacher. Great ideas including having electric light, a proper football field and wanting the school to go beyond class 9 to class 12 so they wouldn’t have to walk for an hour / hour and a half to the nearest higher secondary school. Another class we worked with told us of their ambitions; so many want to be teachers which is very noble but probably gives an idea of the so much easier life it is for teachers here.
We joined the nursery class and class one for story time and were joined by some of the mothers of the nursery class. Saran id a great simultaneous translation of ‘Bat Mouse’ and ‘Cammy Chameleon’ followed by Laxmi, a teacher, giving a hugely engaging reading and question time as she read from one of the big books we had donated. It is so wonderful to see the children’s entranced faces and enthusiastic responses.
After school I walked to Saran’s house with his wife, Santi, enjoying the cooling afternoon and a lovely cup of black tea (Nepali style) at the house with Astibi and Sohan providing the entertainment. For dinner, we started with roasted chick pea beans, another delicious first, with a small glass of rocksi which ensured I would sleep well.
We headed off to Kolankee Primary School in the beautiful but poor village of Kokal and met with two very stubborn cows on the track, their owner oblivious to us as he chatted as a ‘shop’. The children were delighted to see us, especially Saran who they know often brings them new things for school and he loves joking with them. He so loves children and is a devoted father and husband.
I was looking forward to seeing the multigrade teaching the government has introduced to the school as it only has classes from nursery to class 3. But first we played ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ which was great fun. The multigrade teaching means the three staff, Laxman, the head teacher, Radha and Bimu are all in the same room with the entire school population. At the moment this is 20 children, the number has dropped by 10 as parents are sending them to fee paying (not much) schools. This is so short sighted as the multigrade teaching really focuses on effective learning and is some of the best we have seen. I recommended to Laxman that he calls all the parents in the village to show the levels of achievement and enthusiasm amongst the pupils.
Binod, the near blind pupil, has been moved groups but he seems to go to whichever group he fancies but he achieving far more through the new teaching methodology. The teachers are also using some of the strategies we recommended to them after I had seen an experienced teacher for the visually impaired in the UK. It is such a pity that appropriate learning resources are not available in Nepal. He may go to the school for the visually impaired in the nearby Mahdi Valley when he is older, he is about 8 now but small for his age.
As the school are desperately short of exercise books, pencils and sports equipment, we left a bit early to order these and have them sent the next day. We also had some urgent work to do in the office.
Early the next day, we had breakfast at Saran’s parents ‘canteen’ before heading off on the motorbike to Pipaldanda School. It’s about a 30 kilometre drive in the direction of the sacred area of Ramdi, before we go off road on a very muddy track, at first bordered by rice paddy fields which are not the usual type in Palpa district. It’s a rough ride and full marks to Saran for his determination. The school looks good when we see it with the addition of a covered area on a part of the first storey. The money was provided by a local politician just before the recent election. Yes – probably a bribe but … After a very disappointing visit last year, when one of the teachers was pretty dire, we are pleased to see that she has left and been replaced by a new enthusiastic male teacher. They also have a class 6 this year, with permission for classes 7 and 8 in the following years so the previously empty new classrooms will be occupied. Amongst other things, the head teacher would like railings for the school compound to keep out cows and their owners as well as drunken men. Right on cue one of the latter appeared!
As the previous day’s ride had been so tough, we decided to use a jeep to go on our last school visit – to Amrit School in Angakhola. Khola means river in Nepali and the school is near the top of a beautiful valley filled with terraced rice fields surrounded by densely wooded hills and houses dotted in unimaginable places. The school previously had very poor accommodation for many of the classes so Manisha UK donated funds to build 2 new classrooms and the government provided funding for four more rooms.
The new buildings are bright and airy with good shutters but I was surprised to see that ‘our’ new classrooms, despite being finished, were not in use. The head teacher, in his big new office that he shares with the school accountant, told us that he is waiting for funds for new furniture for the children. I made it very clear that we did not provide classrooms to have then standing empty whilst children were still being taught in dark, dingy, dusty places. I don’t think he appreciated my alliteration (in English) or my comments but I reiterated my points and will have Saran check after the Tihar (Diwali).
To make matters worse, we saw that of the four new government rooms, only one is being used as a classroom – there’s a big computer room which doesn’t look well used, a staffroom with the poshest chairs I’ve seen in Nepal and the head teacher has the cheek to say they need new library books! Saran and I were furious but couldn’t say much as this was government money they were wasting but I will find somebody of importance to tell them about this. We muttered darkly and then headed to the nursery class where we were pleased to say the teacher working far more effectively with the children than last year.
Excuse the pun but the bitter taste was 'sweetened' by the delicious taste of the potato pakora we had at the local canteen before we got back in the jeep. At 10 rupees for one piece (7p), it was a bargain and very welcome too.
Back to Tansen to continue the planning for teacher training on Friday and Saran is taking a boy and his father to Bhairahawa hospital for a possible eye operation. Another situation were being in a developing country is so heart-breaking when it comes to health.
Exhausting day on Thursday getting everything organised for Friday's training but more of that later.
Apologies having problems adding more photos.
Will try to do them in a separate blog
Apologies having problems adding more photos.
Will try to do them in a separate blog