Improving learning in earthquake-struck Nepal

Since 2015 the British and Foreign School Society (BFSS) has supported Classrooms In The Clouds (CITC) with building 20 earthquake resistant, child-friendly classrooms in 3 different locations.

CITC first applied for a grant following the tragic earthquakes in Nepal that killed nearly 10,000 people and injured over 250,000. CITC mainly works in the lower Solu Khumbu region which lies below the village of Lukla – the ‘gateway’ to Everest.

The earthquakes had a devastating impact throughout Nepal but its effect is particularly felt by women and girls. Families in rural areas, understandably, had to put their efforts into survival for the short and medium term. Children, especially girls, were required to help at home at a time when Temporary Learning Centres (tents, bamboo structures) were replacing earthquake damaged schools.

Rebuilding and improving the fragile confidence girls were gaining in education before the earthquakes struck was at the heart of CITC’s initiatives. Even before the earthquakes, Nepal had one of the worst literacy rates in the world (12th) where 45% of women are illiterate.

CITC also sponsors 15 teachers in schools where the government does not provide sufficient funding for teacher salaries, and selects women to provide the inspiration for girls to excel in education. As women applicants are likely to be less qualified than their male counterparts, CITC supports their professional development leading to a Bachelor’s degree in education and, in some cases, a Masters qualification. This has the added benefit of improving their future prospects of a government paid teaching role and brings sustainability to the initiative.

Barriers to girls remaining in school through puberty due to prejudices and facilities were apparent before the earthquakes and only made worse in their aftermath. BFSS also supported clean water and gender specific toilets for a rural school serving 750 children. CITC has carried out extensive menstrual health training and introduced a micro-industry to supply reusable menstrual health kits in this very poor society.

As a result there is a much improved learning environment in the classroom, with studying continuing through the challenges of the seasons — be it monsoons, the cold of winter or the stifling heat of summer. Attendance of girls in school has improved significantly and the local communities have been strengthened by the positive influence of teacher and school on girls in education.

The most recent BFSS support came in the refurbishment of two classrooms at Shree Sagarmatha, Bung. As a direct result, the school leadership has prioritized child-friendly ‘grade teaching’ in early grades, which previously was subject teaching. The role of Early Years Head has been introduced for the effective management of the Early Years, under the direct supervision of the principal.

Lhami Sherpa, a female teacher currently sponsored by CITC, has been given the role, which supports the women empowerment issues that CITC advocates. Teachers and pupils from Grades 1-3 have enthusiastically embraced the CITC structured lesson planning initiative — vastly improving the curriculum delivery of core subjects — which is also embraced by other schools supported by CITC.

The project is evaluated through quantitative and qualitative measures. The peripatetic teachers supporting the school teachers regularly visit the school to collect basic data on school performance. Annual school reports on the results, teachers’ perception and parents’ views are observed and recorded for quantitative and qualitative analysis.

CITC Board Members and the project support team continuously support the school and voluntarily make regular visit to monitor and evaluate the on-going projects and collect responses on the past project.

BFSS has been an integral partner in this journey. Through landslides, power outages and political chaos, everyone has stood strong in the belief that public education in a remote region of Nepal can change and improve for the children. The parents are gradually more aware and confident in their local schools. There is a good community participation in school-initiated activities as the trust of parents’ increases. The local government are making comparatively better investment in the school and education of local children.