Change Begins from Here and My Students are on their Path

March 1, 2017

Rishika Pokharel

“बच्चाहरुलाई पैसा कमाउन सिकाउनु पर्‍यो ।” (We need to teach our kids how to earn money.)

After a few weeks of brainstorming we were able to change bright ideas into a project concept. “हाम्रो सीप, ज्ञानको दिप” (Our skills are enlightened knowledge.)

The process started with the notion of selecting 30 students from Grade 7-10; of Shree Ma. Vi. Mithileswar Mauwahi. We looked for students who were hardworking, dedicated, eager learners’ who could transform their learning and capitalize their surroundings.

I still remember the first day when we shared the idea among the students, they were confused. "हँ!! कसरी ?" (How?). Most of the students were shocked, as they had never been part of the entrepreneurial project. The idea behind the project was to make students self-standing  for their day visit to Janakpur. Rather than asking their parents for financial help, we wanted them to learn how to earn money by utilizing their skills and collaborating in groups. We also challenged them to finish the project in 15 days and they were not allowed to miss school and the project could not affect their grades.

The team of three girls from Grade 9 kick started the project with NRs.500 borrowed from a teacher. They stitched different piece of cloth and transformed it into a beautifully decorated "रुमाल" (handkerchief) with flowers embroidered into it. Few more students joined the girls, and they started making basic handkerchief as well. The price ranged from NRs. 50 to 100 based on designs. Their business flourished. During the production, Ranjita, a ninth-grader exclaimed, “ मिस! केटाहरुले पनि रुमालमा आफ्नो नाम लीखायो ।” (Boys are also writing their name in the handkerchief.)

In the beginning, the students faced many obstacles, some prospective customers didn't like the designs, some even threw them in the trash, but the students didn’t give up. After hard work and diligence they were able to make a profit of more than NRs.1000. After accomplishing their first venture, it was time to move to the next venture, Food Stall.

"हामी सहिद चोकमा बजार राख्ने भोलि ।” (We will place our food stall in Martyr Point.) was uttered by one of the ninth grader. The stall sold sliced bread, chops (fried mashed potato) and golbhara achar (homemade tomato sauce) as well as few variety of sandwiches. The students organized everything, from buying vegetables, arranging tables to preparing sandwiches. It definitely didn’t go smoothly, there were quarrels and misunderstanding, but looking at the students working towards the collective goal was eye-pleasing.

The day of the sale was cool and breezy, and the stall was colorfully decorated with chart papers and doodles created by students, it matched the clear blue sky that worked perfect as a backdrop to the stall. One by one people started visiting the food stall. Even though the price for the product was fixed, there were some who tried to haggle the price, students started getting weary. After mentioning that the  profits of the venture would contribute to students trip to Janakpur, people were willing to pay more than the posted price, few even donated. Within three hours, they were able to sell about 50 chops and few sandwich making a profit of Nrs. 700. The venture would not have been successful, if it wasn’t for some people recommending their friends and strangers about the stall and how it was going to benefit the cause.

When you look out the window of the classroom in our school, you can see the black clouds of smoke blowing out of chimneys in "भट्टा" (brick kilns) . The students always saw the brick kilns from afar but wasn’t aware about the process of making "इट्टा" (clay brick). So we decided, for the next venture the students would contribute their labor in the brick factory. After contributing little more than an hour, 18 of the students under the supervision of four teachers were able to earn Nrs. 2000. The venture helped them learn about working alongside each other; helping towards each others dream.

Following that we decided to create dustbin by decorating tin cans with slogan arts, stickers and smiley emojis. To get the bins ready for decorating, we distributed the group and assigned them work; bringing washing detergent to clean cans, modifying the ends of tin cans, and creating an outline for quotes on paper and sticking them to cans. The effort was exceptional. They were able to create about six dustbins in few hours. Chandrika, 10th Grader shouted "अती राम्रो छ, कसरी कचरा हाल्ने मिस।” (It’s beautiful, but how do we throw the waste.). They sold all the dustbins that we made for the project.

Few other projects we commenced were Paper Art, led by seventh graders, Ram Lagan. People loved paper art and was able to sell few, earning Nrs. 100. Bookmark project was unsuccessful, the students weren’t able to sell all of them, but were able to accumulate Nrs. 120 even though we did not invest any money into it. When we started the project we knew some ventures wouldn’t be successful, but the end goal was for us to teach the students about entrepreneurial and how to become self-standing.

After raising the fund we targeted, we made our way to Janakpur. The students visited holy sites like Ganga Sagar, Janaki Mandir, Ram Mandir, Swarda Dwar and even had an opportunity to listen to social activist, Ram Ashish Yadav and Pawan Singhaniaya, It was a different experience from their everyday life.

Reflecting upon the program, I feel enthralled by the efforts put forward by my students, ‘Sense of Urgency’ they felt was demonstrated by their accomplishment. This project helped us learn that one should never give up on any idea and to have faith in oneself. If things don’t go right in the beginning then tweak it if necessary and move ahead because success is right around the corner.

Looking back at the best moment of the entire program for me was when Shankar expressed," मलाइ आज धेरै खुशी लगिरहेछ, हाम्रो स्कुलको विध्यार्थी पनि यती राम्रो गरेको छ ।" (I am very happy today, our students did great with the challenge.). Seeing students praising each other was an emotional moment.

Our project would not have been successful without the collaborative efforts of students and my co-Fellows Akash Thakur and Sneha Bajracharya. And also our dear friend Gopal Jha who assisted us in brick factory.

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