As more than a dozen primary students gathered inside her classroom, Manju K.C. asked them to sit in a circle. The primary teacher at Bhrikuti Namuna Primary School in Dadeldhura – a far western region in Nepal, asked the students what they would like to do before starting class. The students wanted to sing rhymes. So Mrs. K.C., along with the students, sang rhymes to start the day’s lessons. Until recently, Mrs. K.C. wasn’t aware of the value of doing circle time with her students.
After participating in a training provided by Kathmandu International Study Center’s (KISC) teacher training programme called Education Quality Improvement Programme (EQUIP) in April 2012, Mrs. K.C. has started implementing circle time and other child-friendly methods in her teaching.
“Circle time helps us start the class in a fun and positive way,” Mrs. K.C said. “It also helps us get students settled in the classroom.”
EQUIP has been providing transformational trainings to school communities across Nepal since 2007. The programme works with both government and private schools in rural and urban areas of Nepal. Currently, EQUIP partners with 29 schools in 5 districts – Palpa, Trishuli, Lamjung, Dadeldhura and Kathmandu. The program also has a teacher trainer in the remote district of Dolpa mentoring teachers in dozens of schools. EQUIP began its five-year commitment at eight schools in Dadeldhura in April 2012 and recently conducted the second phase of trainings in September.
During the first year, EQUIP partners with Early Childhood Education Centre (ECEC) to train pre-primary teachers involved in early childhood development (ECD) on how to operate and manage pre-primary classes or grades in a responsible, effective and child friendly manner. The trainings are based on the Nepal Government’s ECD curriculum. They include fun and interactive hands-on activities, role plays, songs, ice breaker games, workshops, microteaching, audio visual content and more.
Throughout her 24-year teaching career, Mrs. K.C. has participated in several teacher trainings provided by local education office and other organizations. However, she said she hasn’t been very motivated to implement the training lessons in her classroom because of the lack of follow up activities from the training providers.
She has been very motivated to implement the lessons from EQUIP trainings because of the organization’s follow up visit as well as support from Dadeldhura-based EQUIP teacher trainer Ona La Motte. The follow up visit included teacher and classroom observations, feedback sessions, a principal seminar, parent seminars and second phase of training for the primary teachers. Three EQUIP visits in the area are scheduled each year.
After undergoing the EQUIP trainings, Mrs. K.C. has seen positive improvements in her classroom. She now has a better relationship with her students and her students listen to her more. She also said Mrs. La Motte has been instrumental in improving her teaching style.
Mrs. La Motte regularly visits Bhrikuti Namuna Primary School and three other EQUIP partner schools, where she has been observing the teachers, providing them important feedback to improve their teaching style, doing some model teaching as well as engaging in the physical improvement of the school. Recently, she and a team of volunteers from Youth with a Mission (YWAM) painted some classrooms as well as built a basketball court, the first ever in the region.
Mrs. La Motte’s presence in the Dadeldhura school community is very important in driving home the fact that EQUIP is committed to improving the education of the area for a long time, said EQUIP Director Khim Kandel.
“As relationships are very important in this far-western community, Ona is doing her best to build those relationships as an EQUIP representative,” Mr. Kandel said. “She has been a great asset to KISC EQUIP, especially in encouraging and supporting the teachers to implement the training they have received.”
During her one-year stay in Dadeldhura, Mrs. La Motte has seen some positive changes.
“Some teachers do care for their students,” she said. “They are trying hard to implement the training in their classrooms.”
She also said that because “chalan” (tradition) is so important in this far western community, people here are reluctant to any kind of change.
However, as the teachers and principals become more aware of the need to change their traditional ways of lecture style teaching and focus on more interactive and child friendly ways, she is hopeful of more positive changes.
“The key to bringing these changes is building strong relationships with the school, teachers, principals and the community,” she said. “As we are seen here more often, they see that we care about continuing our work here. This encourages them.”
ECEC teacher trainer Sony Poudel Tamang, who conducted the pre-primary trainings in April, was happy to see some of the training lessons being implemented in the classrooms. However, she also said there was a lot of room for improvement and hoped that more follow up visits by the EQUIP team will help reinforce the training lessons and bring about more positive changes.
As part of EQUIP’s vision, the programme is also committed to empowering parents with knowledge and understanding of the developmental stages of their young children as well as equipping them with tools that will guide them in the holistic development of their children.
EQUIP does so by conducting parent seminars, where parents are educated on the importance of interactive and communicative teaching and learning styles rather than the traditional lecture-style teaching and rote learning.
The parent seminars conducted by EQUIP in September were the first of its kind in many EQUIP partner schools in Dadeldhura.
Ugratara Higher Secondary School’s pre-primary teacher Yasoda Tamada was really excited about having a parent seminar in her school.
“In my seven-year teaching career, this is the first time we are getting together with the parents to talk about their children,” she said.
Mrs. Tamada, whose own sons study at Ugratara, said it is very important for teachers and parents to gather once in a while to talk about what’s going on in the classroom and how they can work with each other to ensure the overall development of the students.
In fact, a parent seminar was one of the things she requested when asked how EQUIP can help her become a better teacher.
Mrs. Tamada’s proactive nature was also evident in her classroom, where she had implemented several lessons from the EQUIP training conducted in April. This included displaying children’s work in classrooms as well as use of locally available resources in teaching.
Mrs. Tamada was so enthused by the success of the parent seminar at her school that she now resolves to try to make it a monthly event.
Despite the poor economic and educational backgrounds of most parents in Dadeldhura, they expressed concerns about the education of their children and wanted them to have opportunities that they never had. It was also noted that most of the seminar participants were female, as the fathers were off to India or neighboring communities earning a living for the family.
A parent seminar conducted at Lateshwor Lower Secondary School turned out to be more than a venue to discuss education. One of the seminar participants was a mother, whose son had committed suicide eight years ago at the age of 12. Prompted by a discussion about the importance of proper emotional development among young children, she shared a tragic story about how her son, frustrated for failing grade four twice, decided to take his life. The emotional mother also said that the community members blamed her for her son’s untimely death. Even after so many years of the tragic event, she was still mourning for her son.
Her story gave rise to a very positive discussion about how important it is to listen to and communicate well with young children to ensure proper emotional development.
The scenario was also a perfect example of how KISC EQUIP is demonstrating Christ’s love by helping bind up the broken-hearted and preaching good news to the poor.
It seemed like this was the first time in 12 years that the bereaved mother had poured her heart out and grieved freely for her son. Later, the EQUIP team, prayed for her that she would find comfort and come out of mourning to see God’s excellent plans for her and her family.
The EQUIP team is scheduled to go back to Dadeldhura in February to complete the final phase of the trainings to pre-primary teachers, followed by trainings for primary teachers.
In the next four years, KISC EQUIP will contiue to spread God’s goodness in Dadeldhura and other project areas by providing transformational trainings and school improvement support in a holistic way by involving teachers, principals, school management committees, parents and community.