Using Football (soccer) to curb school drop-out

June 15, 2018

   

I am Mahesh, Teach For Nepal Fellow 2017 currently placed in Bagchaura, a remote village of Dhanusha district of Nepal. I am currently in the second year of my two-years Fellowship teaching math and very much enjoying my role as a change-agent in the village.

First, let me tell you a little bit about my village. Bagchaura is a typical rural village in Nepal where every one of the locals is farmers and the large population of youths work in Gulf countries. The village has a very low literacy rate and it gets worse when we talk about women literacy rate. Superstition is rooted and dowry system, child marriages and caste discrimination can be experienced almost every day.

Traditional farming and fishery are the main occupations of the locals here. There is a higher secondary school and a primary school in two opposite sides of the village but the admission rate of students in both the schools are pretty high however the dropout rate is also high.

Well, that was the short introduction of the village that I am currently serving as a Fellow.

   

As I am reaching the end of my Fellowship, I saw a lot of problems such as decreased number of students attending school, an absence of classroom code of conduct and rules including discipline, integrity along with lack of essential skills that school-going children would need. Hence I wanted to do something that my kids would learn some life skills as well as enjoy at the same time. So I decided to start an ambitious project with my students. 

Before starting the project, I ask myself some questions, ‘Why did I join Teach For Nepal Fellowship? What was the reason I selected Dhanusa to do my Fellowship? Am I doing what I had planned to do before I came to Bagchaura? Does my work align with the student vision? Is this Fellowship only created to make learning fun and meaningful in the classroom?’

While trying to answer these question, I came into the conclusion that I had to do something that would lure the students towards coming to school and reduce dropout rate, a project that would bring me closer to the students especially the ones who don’t come to school regularly, a project that will ignite passion towards learning and bring all the kids from different ethnic background together. As I looked for outlets I came across a ragged old volleyball, which at that time I thought was a football (soccer ball).

   

Fast-forward to today, a lot has happened, some of the kids kicked the ball for the first time, some got hurt and some celebrated as if they scored a goal against a star-studded team from the World Cup. Today, as I write this, 25 students have started kicking the ball. I am sure the numbers will keep increasing. We have students from grade three to grade nine and most of them are from a diverse low socio-economic background and their team captain belongs to Chamar caste (Untouchables).

The first three months were the most difficult period. One day, in my absence, one of the students tried an acrobatic bicycle kick and landed on the ground with full force fracturing his left hand.

The team has set norms and values where racial slurs are not tolerated, defending your teammates and taking a strong stance against caste discrimination.

Though the project hasn’t solved all the problems, it has cut the school absence record in half. The students have started learning the importance of teamwork, unity and morale. They have realized the importance of discipline and speaking up for what’s right. Along with these life skills, they have also learned how to read and write in English. The team captain, Bibek who usually found the language hard can now introduce himself in English language and has learned few new sentences. Three of my students who had to repeat the same class because they failed in the English language have improved their English dramatically.

   

The project has not only helped my students in their education it has also helped in developing their emotional and psychological aspects. They have learned to accept defeat as well as celebrate victory as a team. Shaking hand after the defeat as well as celebrating goals with fellow players who are not in the field. Overall, they have learned never to give up.

Though these students might never touch the football again after they graduate from school, deep down they will always cherish the time spent in the field kicking the ball and hopefully share stories of their games with other students in the school and community so that more kids get involved.

   

My plan is to increase the numbers of participating students every day in the field and lower the number of absentees in school and so far its been working.

These days, the students not only attend school regularly, they are also submitting homework on time, they have started gaining confidence and started believing in themselves. They even went to the Municipality office to request funds for new footballs and equipment on their own. Unfortunately, the office didn’t have funds for the students. But the Chairman was kind enough to give them some money personally to buy football and goalkeeper gloves.

I am beyond excited about the project and hopeful for one day...

 


  Mahesh Silwal is one of the 111 Fellows who is in his second year of Teach For Nepal Fellowship. Prior to joining Teach For Nepal Fellowship, he completed his Bachelor’s of Business Administration from Padmashree International College, Nepal. He is currently teaching Math in Shree Secondary School (Baghchauda), Dhanusa. You can sponsor Fellows like him by donating to Teach For Nepal.

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