MAKING CHANGES FROM THE CLASSROOM TO THE COMMUNITY

I still remember the very first day of my Fellowship Journey. I left my family and joined the learning institute. It was a tough decision for me to make. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote- “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.” The spirit in me always wanted to contribute to the nation, I believe change begins from the classroom, and I knew the bizarre public education system of the country from my past working experiences. So, without making any delay, I left a high paying job and joined the movement. The drive to change the public education system gave me the strength to step ahead and bring remarkable changes in the lives of students in terms of their academic performances, career choices, and community engagement. The two years journey gave me firsthand experience what a single person can do for the betterment of children’s education, their family, and the community itself.

I completed my Master’s degree in Rural Development and had worked as a consultant in the National and International Non-Government sectors. I ended up making a huge change not just in the life of my students but also the community members in the remote area of Dukuchhap in only two years.

I had the privilege of private education but was aware of the limited opportunities that public schools offered to its students, and I wish I could do something for the public education sector. I always felt like I had missed out on my desire to help in the education sector.

When I applied for TFN’s fellowship program, there were 900 applications out of which only 32 fellows were selected, and fortunately, I was one of them. I was posted to Dukuchhap in the Lalitpur district to teach English. I used to travel from home on my bike for 2 hours to reach the village, making way through gravel roads. On my first visit, I went in with preconceptions of how the situation would be and how I would tackle it. But I was appalled to see that my students of 9 and 10 standards could not even understand a few sentences of basic English that I spoke. The teachers were also least bothered, there were hardly any classes taking place, and the students were undisciplined. I felt totally out of place and didn’t know how to go about it. I rethought my teaching plans and decided first to get to know my students better and then instigate them towards learning a language utterly foreign to them. So, I solidified my relationship with students by interacting with them and getting to know about them, their family, and their background. Along the way, I educated them about the importance of the English language in today’s world and how it will help them later in the future. To motivate my students to learn English, apart from books, I incorporated English movies, drama, rhymes, videos, and songs to familiarize them with the language and also to grasp their attention. I assigned them different research works for a better understanding of their surroundings and to internalize their learning into action. I even started a ‘Pen Pal Program’ under which I made my students write letters and video chat with the students of Melton Secondary School in Australia. All these initiatives boosted the morale of my students, and they took a greater interest in their studies. My efforts showed results as by the end of my term. All of my students had passed their English language exams. It was a massive achievement for me as while only 32% had made it through. My students made me a proud teacher.

Bringing a change in my students’ lives was just a starting point. During my term as a fellow, I noticed some things which needed desperate attention. The lack of proper sanitation, hygiene, and drinking water in the school was the most prominent problem. Students would not come to schools due to the lack of these facilities. So, I send a WASH proposal of a $5,000 seed grant to the United Nations people and initiated the UNICEF’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program in my school. As a result of the school now has proper facilities needed and children enjoy being at school more.

Similarly, I also wanted my students to get exposure to technology in their classrooms. I collected an $800 seed grant from England and established a well-functioning E-library for my students. They were highly motivated to learn English through technology. Another major problem that I felt that I should work on was ending the discrimination between students belonging to Brahmins, Chettris, and Dunuwars, which is a marginalized group in Nepal. I noticed during my classes that students belonging to the Brahmin and Chettri community did not allow students of Dunuwar community to sit with them and also did not interact or play with them. I knew that this was a deep-rooted problem of Nepali society for ages, and to change this, I would have to get in touch with the students’ families, village people, and heads. So, I began visiting the people personally to know about them and their lifestyles and challenges. I started investing more and more time in the community and enlightened them to overcome the caste differences. Simultaneously I also pioneered the cause of girl education, especially among the Dunuwar community. I also attended women’s group meetings and made them realize that the change needs to come from them as well. All my hard work paid off, and considerable changes took place in the village. The people recognized my dedication and hard work and were unwilling to let me go at the end of my term and were foreseeing me as the next principal for the school.

I had other plans for myself, though. Having experienced firsthand what a single person can do for the betterment of a community, I felt I needed to go and reach other such places and initiate changes and develop them in any way I could. As luck would have it, TFN opened up a position for Leadership Development Manager through which an individual could lead the way for other fellows and support them, and guidance during their term. For me, this was an exciting opportunity as it enabled me to help others and impart my knowledge to people of similar interests. In the course, through my fellows, I could reach even more students and the community.

Today I have been working as a Senior Leadership Development Manager for more than four years and counting. I currently have 19 fellows under me who are working in 3 schools of Melamchi Municipality and five schools of Thangpalkot Village Municipality, Sindhupalchowk. Through them, I connected to around 600 students.

In my six years of association with TFN, I found it to be a very fulfilling and satisfactory journey. I get to do what I love and that too with a group of like-minded people who are family to me now. The core value of TFN has remained the same over the years, and it always inspires me to keep moving forward and doing as much as I can for the people. Seeing my students speak English fluently, some even started working in multinational companies, and going abroad for higher education gives me a sense of humble pride and hopes I continue working for the betterment of others. It gives me the utmost joy to see my students fulfill dreams that they had never thought was possible for them to achieve.

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