Winds of Change in Simle
Dec. 19, 2017
As the audiences roared into a standing ovation, Bijaya Mani Paudel looked at his students who had just performed a play in front of 350 audiences. Awestruck, speechless and in tears, he said, “This is the first time my students held their heads up in front of this many people.”
That day on April 24th, 2014, only Bijaya and his students knew how far they had come and how arduous their journey had been.
A year ago, in 2013, Bijaya had left his career in journalism to join Teach For Nepal’s Fellowship and moved to a distant village of Simle, a village hidden in the hills, unknown to many. All geared up to teach science, he reached the school on the top of a hill where the wind is persistent, strong and cold. He reached his classroom with the zeal of a new teaching to realize that boys don’t speak and girls cover their faces with their book if anyone says anything to them. With most children from Tamang community, many students couldn’t write or speak Nepali which is the medium of instruction for all subjects in the school. Consequently, in the year before, 0% students had graduated in the 10th-grade board exams.
This year in 2017, 90% students graduated from 10th grade. And this same year, Sangita, a female student, has received a full scholarship to attend United World College.
Sangita, like any other girls in her classroom, used to run away or hide her face behind her book if anyone wanted to talk to her. She was far behind in academics when Bijaya started teaching her in her eighth grade. She was often absent from school because she had to attend to household work.
Now, 17 Sangita is the first from her family to graduate from school and the first from her village community to go aboard for further studies. “Before Teach For Nepal Fellows came to teach us, my classmates and I were very poor in all subjects. Many of us would never pass any exam and most of the students would eventually drop out,” expressed Sangita. “If they had not come, I would have probably never completed my board exam and would have most likely been married with kids or would have migrated for labor work to Gulf countries as many others in my village."
Engulfed in the context of poverty, dispirited by continued experiences of prejudices based on social, economic and gender, putting children like Sangita on a transformational life trajectory requires a persistent effort and a sustained engagement. It requires someone to pull them up from the bottom of the barrel to finding their voice, reviving their spirits and restoring their pride in their identity before helping them figure out maths or science. It requires young leaders like Bijaya, Nawang Sherpa, Shiv Kandel, Sumit Kharel, to leave the comfort of their homes, dedicate two years of their life and survive on potatoes, rice and less than a liter of water a day. It requires a strong commitment of young leaders like Ratan Darshan Devkota (2016), Santosh Rai (2016), Bishal Khaiju (2017), and Kishore Subedhi (2017) to continue to fuel the fire of change against the social and cultural status quo in the community.
It requires a strong vision for change, commitment and persistence.
Sangita was taught by Teach For Nepal Fellows Bijaya Mani Paudel (2013) Nawang Sherpa (2014) Shiv Kandel (2014) and Sumit Kharel (2015) at Shree Chandeshwori Secondary School, Simle, Lalitpur.