Introductory Phase of my Report: Background
So why Volunteer in Nepal? I think first it’s important to establish why Volunteer at all. Volunteering is pivotal for me to help individuals, communities and working Institutions in regions where there is little growth for improving lives due to either the socio-economic situations, they find themselves in or other problematic circumstances such as pollution, Civil war, Political unrest and areas struck with Natural disasters. There is a need for Volunteerism in the world today and in Nepal that is no different. Nepalis a country struck with poverty, sickness, pollution and not to mention still recovering from a massive earthquake that destroyed many people’s lives and to this day recovering.
Something within me wanted to explore a different part of the world, learn about a new culture and surround myself in a strange environment. With all the issues Nepal was facing such as Poverty and pollution my interest in volunteering led me here to the heart of the issue seen in its bustling, busy capital Kathmandu.
My placement was associated with a local organization called Samsara Creation and was 6 weeks in length. Samsara Creation innovates eco-consumer products through waste upcycling and Nature – Based Solutions, since 2019. In addition to this, Samsara Creation does many hands-on projects in association with different organizations both national and International in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations. Many of its workers come from various Professional backgrounds with hands-on experience and research. My research and fieldwork led me to goal number 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals which is Quality Education.
My primary focus initially was quite broad in terms of the scope I wanted to address when looking at Education here in Nepal. I was analyzing through different avenues such as the teachers and their suitability to teach kids professionally, how the children learn inside the classroom, the facilities and resources available in schools to enhance their learning and experience, and teaching English myself to grades 2 to 5 as well as getting involved with the student’s well-being which involved one on one counseling Sessions in Emile Academy International. To do this successfully I examined the three levels of schools here Slum Schools, Public Schools, and Private Schools. Being a student in a developed society and environment I wanted to see what effect education had on students in Nepal and what I discovered was drastically different and concerning. Raising awareness of these issues is important in my line of research for future workers wishing to excel in this area.
Activities – Slum School
Earlier in my placement, I started in the slum school in my locality in a town called Thapathali, Kathmandu. I observed the area in which the school was situated surrounded by mud, and scrap metal houses with the area swamped in rubbish and dust. The students submitted to this school were from a few months old to 4 years of age. They had 1 teacher with about 10 to 15 students. Their learning was limited and the teacher’s capacity to teach was also limited. Many of the resources they have in terms of books, pictures, toys, and stationary equipment were provided by charities, NGOs, and the community. They were not funded by the government. My line of inquiry focused on how they teach their kids and how they prepare them for Primary School. They mainly play with toys with them and so when they move to primary school they are not on the same level as other students starting. This is an issue but doesn’t come at the fault of the teacher as they get no funding. My stay here wasn’t what I hoped but enough to give me an indication of what schooling is like at the bottom of the pyramid.
Activities – Public School
The resources and facilities at the local public school Gurjeshor were an improvement but still massively underfunded. They had public Bathrooms for boys and girls unlike the school however there was sanitation or toiletries in these bathrooms and for personal hygiene, this is not ideal. There Recreational Area was limited due to heaps of rubble and scrap metal left in the school yard with the help of other volunteers and the students we planned a day to remove this space for children to play in. they had grades from 2 to 10. I thought grades 2 to 5 basic English grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This was a rewarding but challenging job. Having no experience teaching I did everything off the cusp, but the students were cooperative and responded well to my lesson. The teachers approved of my capacity to help teach these kids. I examined the behavior of the teachers and to be critical I was unimpressed. I saw some physical punishment done to students something quite common here but uncommon for me this was culturally acceptable in Nepal but not acceptable from where I am from. Their science lab was incredibly underfunded with little equipment and posters so to be their library with very few books in English and outdated books in the curriculum. Their computer room was also filled with outdated IT equipment. Their English was poor since even the English teacher was limited in their English from only being in Nepal, to seeing me as a fluent English speaker was massive for them and their kid’s learning development. Tests were every week, but I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that this is the case or if there are report cards sent home to parents about the welfare of their child, many parents whose children go to public schools are less focused and care little in comparison to Private School. After two weeks spent here, I turned my attention to Private School and this school was where I focused on a different aspect of school life and that was the well-being of the student.
Activities – Private School
The school I visited Emile Academy International was very passionate about teaching its students. They started off each morning grades 2 to 10 with an assembly. This assembly incorporated marching salutes and movements, singing the national anthem, and answering general knowledge questions. This in turn teaches students discipline, awareness, and being a lot more attentive. In public school, this was never done. They had different subjects such as English, Maths, Nepali, Science, IT class, and Social Science where they learned about Nepal’s history and different countries and cultures. They had scheduled tests every week on each subject and an exam every month on each subject with report cards sent home to parents to show them how well their child is doing inside of school. Everything is done professionally and swiftly.
My emphasis was on a different matter. This time I focused on the student and their well-being. The principal was very respectful and supportive of my decision to do this and allowed me to have one-on-one discussions with boys from grades 8 and 7. The ages of these boys ranged from 12 to 15. I discussed with them the importance of mental health and anxiety within the school that could be due to exams, other students, and exterior issues going on at home or outside the school. It was an important process for me in education because already I’ve discussed the resources and facilities available to students across the three levels, but none focused on their well-being which is equally and if not equally even more important to their learning. If they are distracted from school due to mental health issues or anxiety issues these students need to know it’s okay to talk about such topics and I stressed the importance of that at the start of every session that lasted 30 minutes each. We addressed simple things such as their interests, dislikes, and other things to make them feel comfortable talking also each student is different and I was able to see the different patterns of behavior in each student which was vital to my research.
I faced obstacles in my research whilst on placement due to different reasons. One I had never been to Nepal, so I was unaware of any cultural differences or socio-economic differences which led to shock in most circumstances such as seeing a slum area for the first time, something not seen ever back home. Secondly, I was completely new to this approach. I never taught children before, I never did sessions on mental health I’ve never volunteered with an NGO before. This was completely out of my comfort zone, to begin with, but naturally, after seeing so much I knew the work and time I invested into these different areas made me motivated and driven to make an impact no matter how small I was invested and that was enough to face these challenges head-on and create an environment where I could look back on with pride in myself and in the community. Nepal culturally is quite complex and trying to understand its culture and customs took some time and patience in my research and field study. Teaching kids in public school was difficult. Their attention span was low and engaging in their learning was difficult. In the sessions on mental health getting the boys to co-operate with their feelings was also challenging. These are all common issues many others have faced. This is all about the learning process and something I’ve truly taken to whilst being on placement here with Samsara Creation.
The key learnings from this volunteering experience have made me more empathetic, understanding, and motivated in wanting to help other communities facing similar dilemmas.
It made me more empathetic because coming from a privileged background where I received a quality education, had food on my table, and was financially stable. I’ve had a family and environment that helped me excel as a person. Here in Nepal, many don’t have the same opportunities as me. Many don’t receive an education; they drop out of school to work to support their families and that’s the norm here. Their environment is worse, and their government can’t afford to support the various families and communities who are struggling. Coming from as I said a privileged background, I felt empathy towards the people here, this was a learning curve for me.
After being empathetic to the situation in Nepal and living here for 6 weeks it helped me understand the cultural differences and customs in Nepal, the different castes, and traditional values held in high regard by individuals, by visiting these different schools, analyzing and researching the behavior of the schools in relation to teachers and students it helped me understand education more. Visiting the mountainous regions and countryside allowed me to witness pollution and bad infrastructure. I’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot this made me understand the situation I would be facing a lot more.
Lastly, I was motivated after my time here to do more. My work still isn’t finished and after doing everything I’ve developed a passion to help struggling communities. I want to explore other regions that are facing similar issues. Nepal was a perfect place for that to open my eyes to a real-life crisis. I’ve learned being here any issues at home I taught were real are only minuscule in comparison to what’s happening here in Nepal. It’s a motivation of mine now to push and do the same in other parts. Nepal has made me realize that this is what I should be doing.
- I taught children English, the importance of grammar, and Punctuation.
- I did one on one counseling sessions with students on Mental Health.
- I participated in hikes and learned more about waste management.
- I identified the problems in education between slums schools, public schools, and private schools and compared the lack of funding and resources available.
- I participated in a clean-up session in the local public school to help make a recreational area for students to play in.
- Helped facilitate a hand wash workshop to demonstrate the proper way to wash hands and the importance of good hygiene.
- Met with the local Artisans about how they make knitwear and cloths with recycled material.
- Visited Patan Durbar Square and immersed myself in Nepal culture and learned the process of Thangka paintings.
Feedback/Suggestions for future volunteers
For volunteering I think personally it’s up to you the individual, it must be within you to want to make an impact and apply yourself appropriately. It’s my hope that this report is a guide for those wishing to explore the education system here in Nepal or even just wanting to make a difference in a different sector. I think if you want to go outside your comfort zone, and immerse yourself in a different culture and lifestyle, if you love trekking and traveling then Nepal is the place for you. Its beauty is unmatched, and you can find many opportunities to make an impact or get involved. As a 20-year-old college student, Samsara Creation has given me the platform to make an impact in an area I feel passionate about. Samsara Creation tries there utmost best to help any volunteer make their mark in volunteering. With excellent tuition and guidance, you can thrive here in Nepal. It has truly been an amazing experience, it’s something I can’t quite sum up over a simple conversation but overall, this experience has changed me as a person in how I approach life, people, and even myself. It has helped me mature and find a passion I never thought I would find. Volunteer in Kathmandu and Samsara Creation will show you how!