Update – shortly after Uday and I delivered the books, teaching materials and play equipment to the local school at Chankhu Besi, a cloud of controversy began to brew on our beloved Nepali village. The new VSO volunteers who arrived in March just returned from their village stay at Chankhu Besi and told us the details.
Apparently, there has been some misunderstanding between the school teachers and the community about who can have access to the books, equipment, and teaching materials. The community thought that these items were available for everyone in the village and the school teachers believed that it should only be used by the children who attended the school.
The whole incident conjured up ill feelings on all sides and I can imagine it has also re-sparked the sensitive issue about how the majority of the families in the village would rather send their children to private schools than to the local government school (see previous post – My Village Stay Day 4). Add a feisty local government school teacher advocate to the mix and you have yourself a polarized community. As a result, our gifts of good intentions sat in a brand new book cabinet collecting dust.
The books and equipment were locked up and were hardly being used. The teachers were also unsure how to manage and use them effectively.
Both Gord, Udaya, and I had an underlying feeling that this would happen and now looking back at that time …. it all now makes perfect sense since there were some unusual reactions during our visit.
Throughout the entire time that we were there, I noticed that my Nepali family was very much excited to see me but when I mentioned that I was here to bring gifts to the school they seemed to be unenthusiastic and apprehensive about accompanying me to the school. As well, I noticed that certain families participated in the activities inside the school while other families (those who didn’t have children attending the local school, including mine) were subtlety observing events from the outside.
We had always envisioned that the community as a whole would have access to the resources that we brought. However, I realize now that since the local school is managing the books and equipment for its students and since they are poorly funded as compared to the private schools, it is fair and it understandably makes sense that the teachers would assume that these resources are for their SOLE use only.
Nevertheless, when Udaya returned with the new volunteers in April, he tried to remediate the situation by co-developing a strategy with the teachers that would see the resources being shared by the entire the community. This included a library book borrowing policy for the village and a designated play session for a few hours a week for non-local school children (on a Friday or on the weekend).
Time will only tell if this plan will work out. Gord and I plus a few other volunteers plan to visit Chankhu Besi again in the next few months to check on their progress.
New volunteers helping out
Gord and I were relieved that the new volunteers were able to help out. They provided the much needed training, support and guidance by providing a few training sessions about book care and management, teacher training, and equipment maintenance. Anne demonstrated to the teachers how to effectively teach students how to read a book as well as how to read a book out loud in class. Other volunteers provided tips on how to take care of their books (little things such as how to carefully turn pages and store books away), and others demonstrated the many possible games that they could play with the sports equipment.
On one day during break, the school children broke out in a song and danced using the two Nepali drum sets that we donated.
Below is a photos from our flickr set (photos and videos) of the new volunteers at Chankhu Besi during Sports Day and reading Room to Read books in class.
Thanks again for your support and making this happen for the children at Chankhu Besi.