By Prakash Shrestha: at 2017-10-09 00:00:00
This summer, we spent three weeks in Helambu, Nepal, teaching at one of HELP’s partnership schools, Shree Bhotenamlang School. HELP (Helambu Education and Livelihood Partnership) is a charity that works with schools in the Helambu region, helping to improve the quality of education in rural areas where education is not necessarily prioritised for children. After the earthquake in 2015, HELP provided temporary learning centres, donated replacement furniture and books, and are currently in the middle of a big school rebuilding project. They also give money to help children continue with their studies - their Scholarship Scheme last year enabled 57 talented children to go onto high education, who would not have been able to afford to otherwise.
We weren’t sure what to expect, teaching in such a small isolated area in the middle of monsoon season – what would our host family be like, what exactly would we be doing every day in the school, and how much English did people in the village speak? After a 5 hour bus ride on a cramped local bus and a 3 hour “walk” (probably a much faster journey for the locals, whose lungs cope a lot better) up to our village, we met our wonderful host family – Suke, Maya and their three excitable children. The feelings of not quite knowing what was going on, unpredictable plans, and perilous uphill climbing were to be a major theme in the next few weeks!
Our schedule consisted of hour long lessons from 10-3, then a more informal English and games club (bananagrams was a real hit) for an hour at the end of the day. By the end of our stay, we were even doing after school English conversation lessons with the teachers, which were always a laugh. The oldest years were my favourite to teach, as the pupils were so hardworking and we were able to do a lot of grammar, extended writing, and even some creative writing (the story about the dragon and the onions was particularly memorable). With younger children we did more vocabulary, hangman, singing and handing out stickers to bring the shyer ones out of their shells. Hopefully this instilled some long-term interest in the English language into them, but for now they’re all excellent at animal charades! For our final lesson we organised a little sports day with whatever resources we could find (limbo with a bit of bamboo, wheelbarrow races, egg and spoon race), which was a great success and one of my favourite days at the school.
After school, some of the children would usually take us on walks round the village to their favourite places – it was such a beautiful place, and there was always somewhere new to discover. Then we’d come home for some chai, would have lots of free time for reading or washing clothes, and had a big portion of dal bhat before an early bedtime. It was often hard to get a moment’s peace as, even if the school children didn’t follow us home, our own host family children would be climbing all over us, but they certainly kept us entertained. One girl in particular, a 13 year old called Nanu with exceptional English, seemed to always be round our house with her constant curiosity, and helped us out whenever we had questions or concerns for the family. She had great ambition and dreams of becoming a computer engineer, and we both hope that she manages to fulfil that dream, despite not having access to a computer at home. Over the three weeks our family took us on long walks, played music for us, danced with us and let us watch the rituals of the magic doctor, so we were kept entertained on our days off, too.
Bhotenamlang school is in desperate need of better buildings. Many of the classrooms are simple bamboo constructions, with corrugated iron rooves that make teaching in the rain almost impossible. Other classes just had tarpaulin for walls and muddy, puddle-filled floors. When the rain came, in certain classrooms pupils would rush forward with buckets to catch the drips. The was little to no sports equipment, and teaching supplies were limited. There was a library with quite a few books and some computers, and with more investment I can see the library becoming a very valuable resource for children who do not have a single book in their family home. The continued work of HELP will be of great benefit to the school, and it makes such a different to the community that these scholarships are allowing children to remain in school and even make it to university. Having seen the work that HELP do, we can really testify to the massive impact that they have had.
-Tilly and Georgia