My name is Adam Ward. I am a 29 year old male from the UK, but I have lived for the past 4 years in NZ. I came to Kathmandu and worked at Deeya Shree English Boarding School (the name is a misnomer there are no boarding students) for a period of two months.
I was rather naive when applying to volunteer in Nepal. At the time of applying and paying the program fees I was in the process of completing my PhD and so most of my attention was focused on that. However, once I had booked my flights people began to tell me various horror stories about volunteering in Nepal. If I could make one point clear with regards to the above project it would be this:
THE PEOPLE AT THE NVC (KESHAB - THE LEADER AND PRINCIPLE OF THE SCHOOL, MANOJS & MAHESH) ARE VERY HONEST, VERY GENUINE, VERY CARING PEOPLE WHO ARE DOING A GREAT JOB IN HELPING THEIR COMMUNITIES. FIRST IN THEIR MINDS IS THE WELL BEING OF THE CHILDREN THEY EDUCATE IN THE SCHOOL AND OTHER PROJECTS THEY ARE WORKING ON. THEY ALSO SET YOUR HEALTH AND WELL BEING AS A PRIORITY. I CANNOT SPEAK HIGHLY ENOUGH OF THEIR CHARACTER. WHILST I HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE OTHER PROJECTS RUN BY THE NVC, CERTAINLY VOLUNTEERING AT DEEYA SHREE SCHOOL IS A WORTHWHILE PROJECT.
THE SCHOOL ITSELF:
The school itself is situated right next to the international airport in kathmandu. As you fly in take a look out of the right hand side of the plane. You should be able to see the (slum) area where most of the children live. If you get to the school early enough in the morning you can see most of the students walking to the school from this area. Certainly this is a very underdeveloped area and there is no doubt that the children are in need of the support of the school (which provides education for free - this is unusual in Nepal).
The school itself has pretty basic facilities. mainly desks for the children to sit o n and whiteboards for the teachers to write on. The textbooks used are fairly old, but from what I can gather these are the standard textbooks used across Nepal. The children have uniforms and school bags. Apparently, some previous volunteers have taken this as a sign that the students are somewhat affluent and therefore not deserving of aid. I believe this to be a mistake for the following reasons....
1. As I said most of the children live in the slum area near the school.
2. All schools in Kathmandu have uniforms. You will see hundreds of children walking to and from school in uniform even in the most deprived areas.
3. The children have to wear something to school. Having one set of designated clothes is probably beneficial rather than having to provide lots of different sets of clothes.
4. It is quite evident that a lot of the children's uniforms are hand me downs from older siblings.
The school consists of classes 1,2,3,4,5 & 6. In each class there is a large range of abilities and ages. This is because the children start school at different ages and in order to progress from one year to the next it is necessary to pass an exam in Nepal.
There are not enough teachers at the school. Sometimes this results in classes either not having a teacher or one teacher taking multiple classes at the same time. As such, your presence there is definitely useful. However, before you go you should consider what lessons you can teach. If you have no teaching experience then perhaps a shorter stay is best. Simply being able to look after a class and so fun activities is an important thing. However, you cant do this for a whole year say because ultimately the children need to learn something. My advice would be to contact Keshab, tell him your experience and see what he suggests.
Having been a maths lecturer in Auckland I spent most of my time teaching maths to the students. This was not so difficult. However, they also asked me to teach English to class 2 and class 3. This was a lot more difficult as I had never worked with children so young before. Generally speaking, if you give a lecture at a university the students do not start running around, fighting or teasing each other. :)
If I could give some advice it would be this "It is better to be feared than loved". The first day at the school you should shout at anyone being noisy and threaten to (or actually do) send misbehaving students to the principles office. By doing this you will set the tone that you expect the students to work and do not tolerate misbehavior. After a couple of days ease off a little bit and reward students when they do something well.
Whilst this may sound harsh, ultimately I think it is better for the students. As most foreign teachers do fun activities with the students they have unconsciously been trained to think that a lesson with a foreign student is playtime. If you actually want to get them to learn something you must establish yourself as an authority figure rather than as a friend.
CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
Yes. The school needs teachers. No one can save the world on an x-month volunteering trip, however, I think you can make a positive impact on the education of a group of children who sorely need it. Whilst evil may prosper when good people do nothing, even the smallest candle lights the whole room.