|Brev til ITAs
den 10. marts 2012
af Jimmy Lama ITA coordinator Nepal
Dear ITA members,
Hope you have had a great beginning of the auspicious year 2012 and wish that it brings greatest harmony and peace in the universe and happiness in each of us wherever we live! Let me also extend you a very successful and happy Board meeting; wish I was attending it.
In overall, the 2011 was a good year here in Nepal for us in relations to the schools we are working. The two of our project schools are making a good progress constantly and is being recognized more and more as good schools providing quality education. Like the view expressed by the headmaster of Tartong in which he says “We are seen as a small school so there is never enough government attention, but with supporter like ITA, we are determined to provide best possible education to the children who come to this School’, there is so much a modest support like ITA is giving can make difference to make positive impact in the lives of the children in small villages like Tartong and Nakote.
Let me bring you an update of what has happened lately in each school very briefly:
Nakote has evolved as a full-fledged lower secondary school running up to grade 8 which is a tribute to the villagers dream and hard work but also to a loyal supporter like ITA for so long. Since 2011, the school is equipped with Science Lab through our beloved late Frank’s contribution about which children are very happy and it is not quite usual for a government school to have a Science Lab facility. There are now over 105 students and 8 full time teachers of which we contribute salary for 2 of them. The students speak very good English, but sometimes I wonder why not Danish as a new language!? The ITA teachers are called Kaji Sherpa and Shiva Bhurtel who respectively teach Social Studies and Science. Shiva Bhurtel is a qualified teacher and the one we recruited last year. I recently walked into grade 7 and 8 at the school and asked about how they like their teachers, and all seem to be very happy. I have also checked their attendance, which is to the requirement and are seen working actively outside just teaching duty.
There has been a plan to add more rooms in Nakote in order to improve the KG classroom and a small boarding facility, but it seems it will not happen this time because of some issues in the village. A lesson to be learnt is that any development work requires progress in gradual pace!
But the greatest concern at Nakote is the landslide below the school area where there was a new motor road built last year. It needs to be fixed well before the monsoon starts.
Further Needs: Community training, teachers training and boarding facility.
Tartong, now a village happily connected with a new motor road (although very scary it is to drive there) is also changing fast. The school has 5 teachers of which 3 are proudly local youth including Pemba and others are Chiring who is a teacher very skillful at handling volunteers and Phurpa Khendo. The school has just over 75 students and the kids are proudly learning some subjects in English. The school is also well equipped with sporting materials and the KG classroom is one of the best in the region. The ITA Teacher Pemba teaches maths and English.
Further Needs: Community training, teachers training, upgrade of school, playing ground and fencing.
The school we supported last year to plaster its new rooms is also doing well. They have more number of teachers than before, and no longer need to squeeze in just two rooms as they now have 5 rooms altogether. A fencing work like in Nakote needs to be done there to protect children from fall off the edge of their playing ground which is 100 ft down.
Further Needs: Sports materials, Teachers Training and books grant.
NB: Each of these schools have benefitted from international volunteers who make great contribution and connection, and it is one of the reasons why the kids have better English than some of their own teachers.
The ultimate strength of changing these schools lies in the community and the school teachers working together with the third parties like ourselves. However, we have found that not always these community people engages actively due to busyness of their own works such as being away to India for half a year (understandable) and often due to lack of interest. I am a firm believer that the only way to improve these schools in the long run and sustain it is through the vehicle of community taking full in charge of the schools responsibility and the authorities, so I see some works needs to go towards that way. One of the ways I see is creating scholarship for higher education for their children and they as a committee are given authority to select how and who to award it. This then will make a personal connection with the project, and might motivate them to get involved in all educational matters. In order to motivate teachers, salary is the main factor, but to those who we are not paying salary, it could be good idea to create an award system. For example, ITA HELAMBU TEACHER OF THE YEAR where we select teachers who works hard at different levels and award them with certain cash prize or a bonus or a free trip. I think I have discussed around these issues with our friend Ellen Goting, and she has responded very energetically. I also dream that some teachers, some students and some villagers once a two or three years getting a visit opportunity to a school in Denmark (but it is very expensive idea) so that it becomes a reason for the most hard working one to get a life time opportunity. This might on the surface sound like an elitist idea, but if we can arrange something like this, I believe, it could be a great motivation factor.
As I am on teachers’ issue, let me inform you that the government teachers are paid almost twice more the salary we pay to our teachers, and I am seeing that sooner or later it can be a reason for lack of motivation for our own teachers who actually are smarter and more hard working than some other government employed teachers. I am concerned about someone like Pemba who has been working since the beginning of this project and not yet getting paid as much as his other colleagues. Ideally the community should be contributing the rest, but then there is another teacher whose salary the community has to pay as the number of students increase. We currently are paying Rs. 8000 to Kaji and Pemba per month and Rs. 6500 to Shiva Bhurtel, however Shiva gets another Rs. 6500 from the community to keep his salary at par with the government scale and this is also because he is more qualified as a teacher. Is there a way we can make revisions, but I understand that all these matters are financially burdensome. But most important question is for how long we do see we can do this as it will be important for me to inform the villagers of our exit plan and to warn them of their responsibility which I think we should give them enough time to look for alternative. However, if possible, I recommend that this vital support be continued as you know in small villages like Tartong and Nakote, this can be difficult.
I have asked each of the teachers to write a report on their own summarizing their overall progress, and they have told me to submit it after the final exam which ends of the 20th of March.
We would like to conduct a regional teachers training for about 20 to 30 teachers in the future to help the teachers in the way they can teach better using different techniques and methods. I think some help we will receive from Ellen Goting connection in Arhus in 2013, but one to be done locally will be more practically useful. Would ITA like to consider supporting the idea?
Maya is looking forward to sending more knit wears to Denmark, most probably with the volunteers who are in Nepal at the moment. I think it is also time to train more women to knit on different designs. We can to bring together 25 women (10 each from Nakote and Tartong and 5 from Serkathili). But more importantly, we then need to find some work for them be it through helping sell their products here in Nepal or in Denmark. It is always better in Denmark because then they can be paid well as opposed to what they get paid for selling things in Nepal and will keep them motivated to make income out of it. With the training conducted few years ago, at least 20 women are skillful in knitting and some of them make occasional income through it and express their happiness for the skill.
As I saw I am getting involved in doing more and more educational works in the region and the needs and requests keep coming, I thought of setting up an organization dedicated to the development of education as well as livelihood of the Helambu region. As a result, Helambu Education and Livelihood Project (HELP)-www.helpnepal.co.uk- was born and now is a fully in operation working in 15 such schools where government is not doing much and the village has very little scope of support from outside forces like NGOs due to its remoteness and trekkers due to most f them fall on off-the-beaten-track. I would therefore like to invite ITA to partner with HELP and to call that the works of ITA is being implemented through HELP. HELP is supported by a UK based charity MondoChallenge Foundation, but we are happy to extend our support network and combine the international force to improve the overall quality of education in the region. HELP also has a program called Teach and Trek where we offer international volunteers placements like in Tartong and Nakote and also help organize a trek. The volunteers/trekkers make a modest contribution to support the school as well as our admin costs. Currently, it is at $ 200 per person and a 10% commission out of a trek. HELP is governed by 7 people committee in Nepal including a headmaster from Helambu School.
Hope this report finds useful and we look forward to hearing from you and working in cooperation as successful as we have with ITA Denmark.
10 March 2012