Taking the Mission beyond the Fellowship

June 14, 2018

“Every child has a talent which is unique to themselves however not everyone is given that opportunity. Hence, at Sunsar Maya, we build that opportunity for them to explore their talent and utilize to its best capacity.” - Bikash Deshar, TFN Fellow (2014-2016) and Program Manager at Sunsar Maya (SuMa)

Sunsar Maya is an after-school program where Teach for Nepal’s Alumni Bikash Deshar and Sristi Shrestha have been working to “provide hope through education.” Bikash and Sristi are among the 141 Alumni who completed their two years of Fellowship where they taught Science and English subjects at public schools in Sindhupalchowk district. At present, both of them continue to enable possibilities for children with limited opportunities by providing them with platforms for creative engagement. On 29th May 2018, Tuesday, TFN facilitated TFN Alumni’s visit to Sunsar Maya that is located in Sanogau, Lalitpur. 17 people were present during the entire visit including Teach For Nepal Alumni, TFN staff and Sunsar Maya team along with Bikash and Sristi.

   

At the end of his two full years of Fellowship from 2014 to 2016, Bikash, a TFN Alumnus, directly pursued  Sunsar Maya as its mission directly resonated with his vision of what children deserve in life. He started serving immediately as the Program Manager and has been working in this position for two years now. Alongside Bikash, Sristi Shrestha is also a Teach For Nepal Alumna (Fellow 2015-2017). During her Fellowship, her motivation to continue her work and sustain her leadership further to expand overall development opportunities for children beyond books and blackboards led her to be a part of Sunsar Maya.  She currently serves as the Head Teacher at the Sano Gaun unit of SuMa.

The interaction session at Sunsar Maya started with a formal introduction followed by guests engagement with the children. Bikash and Sristi started  out with talking about SuMa’s mission and vision, their work and motivation in continuing in the education sector after their Fellowship tenure.

“What if all children irrespective of their background, place of birth or socio-economic status get a chance to attend after-school programs that create a safe environment for them to learn and be creative?” Both Bikash and Sristi are setting examples of leadership and impacting the lives of many children through their work at Sunsar Maya. As TFN Alumni, they are filling in critical gaps by organizing activities beyond school and classrooms and playing as life mentors for children who are in need of deep care and support. They have become positive role models for anybody eager to work on well-rounded development of children and work everyday connecting themselves fully with the children via SuMa. Through SuMa, they offer children the opportunity to explore their own ideas, create through art, connect through music, dance, play games and engage with teachers who treat them special, unique and of tremendous worth. Bikash‘s shares his belief that “every child has a talent which is unique to themselves, however, not everyone is given that opportunity. Hence, at Sunsar Maya, we build that opportunity for them to explore their talent and utilize to its best capacity.”

SuMa’s unique class division of students class group has been categorized not just with their age groups but also according to the 4 Buddhist principles:

Karuna which denotes Compassion

Mudhita which denotes Kindness

Upeksha which denotes Perseverance

Maitri which denotes Love

SuMa is involved in projects beyond the after-school program like adult literacy class for community women, teachers training, and educational sponsorship.

A typical schedule of SuMa is divided into 3 parts:

  • Literacy class in the morning for community women including subjects such as Nepali, Maths, English and English Speaking
  • Staff meetings and projects during the daytime
  • Kids time: Everyday a child spends 2.5 hours in SuMa after their class hours, which starts from 3.30 pm. Firstly, students enhance their creativity by engaging themselves in music, dance, STEM, knitting/ sewing, painting, etc. during the PlayStation time. The PlayStation lasts for 45-60 mins followed by wrapping up and cleaning up of the used space by students themselves. Secondly, a reflection session is conducted by the teacher among students according to the four groups mentioned above.

SuMa follows the curriculum of Golestan Centre for Language Immersion, an institution based in  Berkeley California, which is a hybrid curriculum of three early childhood development philosophies, Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio-Emilia. Thus, to see the student- centered curriculum in practice, the guests present at the visit got involved with students for the PlayStation time. All the guests were divided into a group of 3 and were places in 3 different groups including STEM where students had to design a helicopter, free-style painting and sewing/knitting. Through such activities, Sunsar Maya builds a homely environment and a creative space for children to learn and grow physically, mentally and emotionally.

     

A teacher mentioned those little moments such as students hugging them and calling them “dijju” was their favourite moment and this is what they loved the most about being a teacher at SuMa. Bikash, Sristi and some of the teachers also shared some of their challenges while working in Sunsar Maya which included

  • Ensuring creativity and sustained engagement in all student activities
  • Supporting children who come from the various family backgrounds with little guidance on moral values and principles
  • Retaining students and preventing dropout in the face of families who constantly move for work
  • Parents thinking that after school program is not as important as the daily school classes hence resulting in the low intrinsic motivation of the students to involve in the activities at SuMa and,
  • Low degree in the locus of control to improve the behavioural and emotional well-being of children as they stay only up to 2.5 hrs per day which results in difficulty in regularly administering their behaviour.

These very challenges also make Bikash and Sristi’s work fulfilling and worthwhile as overcoming these very challenges everyday makes markers of excellence for them. With their leadership, guidance and support, the team believes that Sunsar Maya will continue to be a platform where students can grab the opportunity to make the best use out of this after-school program. The Teach for Nepal team wishes a great journey ahead for Bikash and Sristi’s Sunsar Maya as they continue to inspire more TFN Fellows and Alumni along with many more youth towards leadership and service as well as organized and persistent efforts to enable a future our children truly deserve.

* Learn more about Sunsar Maya and its work at https://www.sunsarmaya.org/

**Written by Neha Gauchan, TFN Alumni Affairs Summer Intern

***Visit Alumni at Work’ is a monthly initiative of Teach For Nepal where TFN community and Alumni are able to have an organized visit Alumni at their workplaces to learn from their leadership and impact and walk away with greater inspiration and collaboration possibilities in the Alumni community.




 

 

   

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