Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Teaching for Nepal: Transforming the country one classroom at a time

By Abhaya Raj Joshi   
Come April 14 next year, 30 men and women from across Nepal will embark on a mission -- to kick start a process to transform themselves and the country.

The fresh university graduates, chosen as 'Teach for Nepal' fellows, would have accepted a challenge -- to bridge the inequality in Nepal's weary education system.

Although the government spends billions of rupees on school education, education in Nepal's public schools, where 85 per cent of the Nepali children go, remains a pressing problem. As results from this year's School Leaving Certificate exams came in, a noted educationist said Rs 200 billion had gone to waste as thousands of students in public schools failed to make it past the 'Iron Gate.'

Simply put, not only are students in public schools failing the all important SLC exam, the public schools are failing their students.

"There is a clear gap between those who have access to private schools, which are relatively better, and those who don’t," says Sishir Khanal, CEO of Teach for Nepal. "This is a form of grave social injustice -- every one agrees. But are we putting our best young minds to tackle the issue?"

The answer is a resounding 'No'. Students who do well in studies move on to the fields of science, technology or business. Those who lag behind take up Education studies and become teachers -- and this is how a 'vicious' circle continues.

When Khanal was in the US pursuing his studies, he came across Teach for America. Under the programme, fresh graduates spend two years mentoring children in areas where education standards are lagging behind. It did not take him long to draw parallels between the state of education in the US, the biggest economy in the world, and Nepal, one of the smallest.

The idea for Teach for Nepal was thus born.

Back in Nepal, Khanal, after carrying out discussions with public schools and college students, established Teach for Nepal with support from HH Bajaj family, Buddha Air and the Embassy of Finland.

The problem starts in schools, where children learn to write. "If 100 students enroll in grade one, 10 of them even don't know basic Nepali alphabets, 25 don’t recognise double digit numbers. Around 70-80 of the members  of the cohort drop out by the time they get to grade ten," says Sishir Khanal, CEO of Teach for Nepal "On top of that, only 50 per cent students pass the SLC."

Hence, Teach for Nepal is recruiting competent youth to not only teach in public schools, but also to groom them into life-long crusaders to end inequity in education.

"We hope our fellows will become leaders in any sector they work in the future, says Khanal, adding that regardless of the career path they take later, they will continue to work to bridge the education divide.

Those selected for this fellowship will receive Rs 10,000 per month as stipend and, at the end of two years, they will also be provided with Rs 120,000 -- which they are free to spend on anything they wish. The fellows, who will participate in a six-week-long residential training before placement, will also be insured.

“Although it demands a lot of effort and hard work on the part of the fellows, Teach For Nepal fellows will experience a trans-formative and highly rewarding experience. They would have done their bit to change the country, one classroom at a time."

For more information, visit http://www.teachfornepal.org. The application deadline is December 21.


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