Monday, 31 December 2018

Laptops for students


The Rotary Club International grant for this project included funding for two suites of computers; laptops for the primary aged students and desktops for the secondary students.

Porters arrived one morning carrying huge loads of these computers on their backs, having walked up the valley, two days from the end of the road.
The porters, looking amazingly cheerful, having carried heavy
loads of computers up the valley for two days.
What a difference these computers will make!

If you had lived all your life so far, high in the mountains, imagine the impression a computer would make.  Most of the children at the school have never left the valley. They had never seen a car, bus, truck or motorbike.  Suddenly, with the arrival and use of these computers, a whole new world will open up for them, and on the screen will be photos and video of things they could only imagine before.

The laptops are already loaded with a wide range of support material for the Nepali curriculum, which is simple to access.  There are practise exercises in Nepali, mathematics, science and English, and they are graded for each year group.  I spent time reviewing the English material which provided a range of different exercises; listening, choosing the correct answer to a spoken question, matching words by dragging, adding the correct word to pictures etc.  The students will love using these exercises, and won't realise they are actually working.

The package from the Nepali company supplying the computers also included extensive training for the teachers to enable them to use the computers in lessons and link the subjects they are teaching to the practise exercises on the laptops.  This was an essential part of the package as some of the teachers had not used a computer before!

I shall look forward to seeing these computers in action in lessons next autumn when I visit the school again.

Teachers undertaking training for the use of these computers

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Traffic Jam

Although there are no wheeled vehicles in Phillim, and the nearest road is two days walk down the valley, this morning on my way to visit a primary school I encountered an unusual traffic jam.

Leaving the village, and walking down the steep steps to the suspension bridge to cross the river, I was passed by a train of unladen mules. These arrived at the bridge just as a large flock of sheep began to cross from the far side. 

Also crossing were numerous students, dressed in blue uniform shirts, on their way to school at Buddha Ma Vi.

The mules made their way onto the bridge and met the sheep about three quarters of the way across. After some pushing and jostling both sets of animals reached their intended side. The students were able to deftly weave their way between the animals, more confidently than I could.

Looking across to the other side I saw more queues waiting to cross. Flocks of sheep, at least three, had converged on the bridge from different directions and their shepherds were holding back before allowing their animals to cross. 

Two trains of mules were also queueing on the steep rise to the bridge entrance, enjoying the chance to browse for anything to eat amongst the surrounding vegetation whilst waiting.

Mules can be seen on the far side of the bridge queueing to cross, whilst a second flock of sheep have begun their crossing.

Generally I would wait for the bridge to be clear before attempting to cross. Laden mules can inflict a serious injury especially in a confined space like the bridge. However this morning I was keen to resume my journey to the school. Having allowed the first flock of sheep to cross, I left the safety of the Phillim side of the bridge and began the walk across. The few stragglers from the flock were not a problem, but the next flock began their crossing before I was halfway across. Then the muleteers, impatient not to be delayed, began jostling their animals through the sheep. These mules were laden, on both sides, with bags of cement, almost filling the width of the bridge. I had to lean right into the side to give the mules room to pass without incident.
Once I reached the far side, at the first available place I climbed through the broken side of the bridge, onto the rough ground and out of the path of the mules. Ten minutes later all the animals had crossed over the bridge and gone and it was safe to continue the journey to school! 

New equipment for schools


Since my last visit to Phillim at the end of 2017, I have been raising money to buy essential equipment for the primary schools we visited there.  These schools had all been devastated in the earthquakes of April and May 2015, and had no teaching resources.  In one mathematics class I visited, where the students were learning how to measure angles, not a single student had a protractor and most didn't even have a ruler.
Equipment for one school, laid out to show what was being supplied.
Before the journey up to Phillim in October 2018 I spent a few days in Kathmandu with the sole purpose of buying educational equipment using donated money.  Rajan, the Vice Principal of Buddha Ma Vi School met with us and we managed to order and pay for a range of equipment for these primary schools.  We also had to organise and finance this new equipment to be transported, by porter, up to Phillim.

"Can you find Nepal?"

We had talked with a couple of the teachers last year about what basic equipment they really needed, so we had a shopping list!
Key things were a class set (30) of mathematical measuring equipment for each school, teaching clocks, a globe, magnets and instructional posters.

Look at the photos of this equipment put to good use.

Finding that the yellow magnet attaches to the metal frame.
"Make your clock say 11 o'clock."

Learning to draw a circle with a new pair of
Using an alphabet poster in an English lesson

In primary classrooms in UK extensive use is made of small individual A4 size whiteboards.  I had found during my VSO placement that home-made versions of these were very popular with Nepali teachers. I had not been able to find any for sale in Nepal, so had brought out around 100 small whiteboards in my luggage from the UK.

We also bought a laminator, so that teaching materials, made by the teachers could be covered and preserved.  This was a new concept for most teachers.

Look how high I can jump!
One thing I had noticed last year was that in the schools, whereas boys had footballs or volleyballs to play with, there was nothing to encourage girls to take part in active play.  This year we brought with us three dozen skipping ropes and some badminton sets, so that we could encourage the girls to play.  What fun they had, as you can see from the photos.

Learning to skip

Thank you to everyone who contributed to enable me to buy these resources.