“I’d been busy with household chores and never had the opportunity to go to the place called ‘school’. PHASE Nepal started to run a literacy class in our village. I joined the class and I’m proud to say that I can now speak the Nepali language and I’m in class 3 in Nubri Primary School.” Tshering Youten, 13 years old, from Prok, North Gorkha
PHASE Worldwide works with disadvantaged communities in very isolated Himalayan mountain villages in Nepal. Through our implementing partner PHASE Nepal we provide integrated health, education and livelihood opportunities.
Our Nepali staff work closely with both children and adults to offer essential skills, including literacy and numeracy. We provide opportunities for people to develop skills which they have missed out on, and we also work closely with existing local government services.
PHASE Fact: We run education projects in the Gorkha, Kavre and Sindhupalchock districts.
Why do we need to provide education services?
In many of the villages PHASE works in there has been no effective education service for years.
Our data shows, on average, primary school completion rates are under 30% for boys and under 20% for girls. In some areas, there are no functioning schools and literacy rates are closer to 0%.
Adult literacy rates are very low in the communities we work with – around 30% for men and 10% for women.
Illiterate young people have fewer opportunities to earn a living. Men often work as labourers or porters, and women and young girls may go to Kathmandu’s factories or look after the family home.
The communities PHASE supports are unaware of their right to education, or even the benefits of basic literacy, so they are not strong advocates for reactivating or strengthening the Nepali education system.
Having an education and, at least, being able to read, write and do basic maths makes a huge difference to people’s quality of life. It enhances their employment options and choices, and makes a huge impact on people’s confidence and independence. It can have a very positive effect on their daily lives, such as reading the instructions on a medicine bottle for their children or a letter from a loved one working away.
PHASE Fact: 475 girls aged 10-15 took part in a four week advocacy and rights programme led by PHASE in the 2013-2014 period.
What causes these problems in the communities’ level of education?
Distances – Most of the villages have a primary school within an hour’s walk – which is a huge distance for a 5-year-old to walk across mountainous terrain! In reality, many of these are effectively closed or are closed for extended periods (see ‘Teachers’). Secondary schools are few and far between.
Teachers – There are no trained teachers in most of the remote areas we work in, meaning the government posts staff from other regions. In small villages, one teacher is expected to teach all grades, and in larger villages, they are expected to teach class sizes of up to 80. They receive very little supervision, support or professional development from government staff. This pressure and lack of support along with difficult living conditions away from family and friends leads to long periods of teacher absence and schools being closed.
Language – Nepali is not the first language in many of the villages PHASE supports, but all government schooling is delivered in Nepali. This makes schooling less relevant and useful to the communities’ daily lives and contributes to the high dropout rates.
Curriculum – The Nepalese curriculum leads up to a standard national examination after grade 10; many of the children we support are not able to follow teaching which is geared towards an exam they will never get a chance to take. There is no provision to help struggling children attain a minimal standard of literacy and numeracy. In many cases, children drop out of school after 1-2 years, unable to even read Nepalese.
Teaching methods – Many teachers have little experience or understanding of child-friendly techniques, and focus on “talk and chalk”, rote learning.
Nepal Stories: Sally Earthrowl, a Geography teacher from London, volunteered with us in 2014 to help provide teacher training to PHASE’s own staff as well as government-employed teachers.
Learning environment – Many of the schools are in a state of despair. There is either unsuitable/unusable furniture or none at all. Classrooms can be dark and cold in winter and too hot in summer. There is often nowhere for the children to play during breaks, and children usually do not get to eat between leaving their homes in the morning and returning late afternoon.
What does PHASE do to address these issues?
PHASE provides much support to the communities and existing government schools. This includes:
- Early childhood development programmes
- Literary classes for women
- Salaries for extra teachers to be employed
- Teaching materials, buildings, water supplies and toilets to improve government schools
PHASE Fact: Over 90 women from North Gorkha learnt to read and write through our adult literacy project in 2013-2014.
We offer alternative classes to allow children to reintegrate into mainstream schooling. We offer these classes to small groups of children of all ages. They are taught a slightly abbreviated curriculum, allowing them to catch up to class 3 of mainstream schools. These alternative classes allow children who have dropped out, who have not enrolled earlier (and are now too old) or for whom the nearest school is too far away to get a minimal education and the chance to carry on to mainstream school afterwards. Three of PHASE’s alternative schools have been handed over to the government so far; a great example of sustainability.
Nepal Stories: Mingmar, 8 years old, has greatly benefitted from PHASE’s alternative classes. She is now able to read and write in Nepali, and has been learning the benefits of brushing her teeth and washing her hands.
PHASE runs a teacher training project ‘Nepal Teacher Training Innovations’. This aims to improve the quality of teaching by encouraging creativity and critical thinking in the classroom. This project leads toward a complete and sustainable transformation of schools and communities – teachers can create nurturing, child-friendly learning environments, in stark contrast to the current focus on rote learning. We run this effectively through cycles of training followed by intensive support for participating teachers. To read more about the NTTI please click here.
PHASE Fact: During 2013-2014, we provided 180 teachers from 36 government schools with awareness level teacher training, and 78 government school teachers received mentorship training.
Nepal Stories: PHASE’s office staff in Kathmandu carefully analyse our projects in the Himalayan villages and explore the need for developments. Fay Beverton visited Manbu, Gorkha district in late 2013 to explore the impacts of PHASE’s teacher training programmes.
You can watch this short video about our education project for more information:
PHASE’s NTTI project also has its own website.
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