Approximately ten billion years ago I promised to answer the questions about the Nepali educational system and my school that people sent to me. Then life happened. But I didn’t forget so here are some long awaited answers to a variety of queries.
What do the children do for lunch? Some go home, some buy something from a vendor nearby, some bring something small from home, some do not eat at school.
Do they have recess? No. There is a 10 minute break between 2-3 period and a half hour for lunch.
What about gym class? No. Arm raises during assembly, but that shouldn’t really count since most of them do more moving during class.
Do you have parent teacher conferences? Results day is when parents come to pick up report cards for the term. Perhaps some conversations go on during this time, but nothing as formal as a conference.
Do you see a difference in how they speak English with you as opposed to their regular Nepali teacher? I see a difference in my English sometimes since I have picked up some of their bad habits in order to be more understandable! (The s sound at the beginning of a word is difficult so you often hear an “i" sound before words like ischool, istudy, etc. and I definitely do this sometimes.) I try to correct the little mistakes that their regular teachers might have a hard time honing in on since English is also their second language; things like he vs. she, when to use good morning vs. good afternoon, sir vs. ma’m or miss, etc.
The biggest difference between me and the majority of my co-teachers is that I am willing to move more slowly through the content because I put a big emphasis on comprehension; when I am teaching by myself I move extra slow because I can’t translate tricky things into Nepali so I have to spend enough time doing actions in front of the class to get the message across. (Some tricky ones lately: haystack, millet, and horn – the instrument that none of the kids have ever seen as opposed to the thing sticking off of goats and buffaloes that they see every day.)
How large an area does the school serve? I walk about one kilometer to get to school. I know students who come at least twice as far as I do. I would guess that the longest walkers probably go for about an hour, but I’m not sure. There are also students whose families actually live outside the Kathmandu valley. The families have chosen to send one or more children into the valley to get a better education. These kids live at hostels nearby, but some of them went home before Dashain and won’t come back until after Tihar because the trip is long. One student told me his family lives in a village and to get home he spends one day in a micro and then two days walking!
How do the kids get to/from school? Only expensive private schools have buses. Most of my students walk. Some of them get dropped off by parents on a motorcycle, and when it rains I sometimes see a few getting out of a microvan which means they spent the 10 rupees to catch a ride that day.
Do the boys wear their ties during recess? Yes. Ties are required for both genders at all times. Some of the littlest ones have various clip-on systems since they don’t know how to tie them yet. (But I also saw a kindergarten girl helping some of the boys the other day and she was a pro!) I will occasionally use ties as collateral when I loan pencils to students who don’t have one.
My host brother, who goes to a private high school in Kathmandu, forgot his tie the other day, completely by accident. He rode the microbus for about 40 minutes to get to school and when they saw he didn’t have a tie, they sent him home. So at 7:15 he was done for the day. Sounds even easier than trying to convince your mom that you should stay home sick!
What games do the kids play? Beat each other up, steal each other’s pencils, try to hide from the American teacher under the desks or behind the pillars…oh, did you mean games outside of class?!? I see kids playing tag, ping-pong, and what I think is like hide-and-seek. I’m sure they have other games that I can’t pick out from the mob of running children. I taught my grade two students how to play Mrs. Fox What Time Is It and thought that maybe that would become a popular game. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of confusion about this – the kids don’t know when to say mr. or mrs. (gender-pronouns again), most of them can’t tell time, and they definitely haven’t thought through the strategy of taking smaller steps – I don’t really care because I’m just trying to get them to practice telling time, but sometimes I wonder why they think the game is fun.
When the kids graduate from this school, how many will go on for additional education? Some definitely will. Those who can afford it will go to a private school for “+2” which is like grades 11 and 12. Then there is bachelor’s and after that masters. Some will continue coming to Kitini where +2 classes are offered from 5:00am until 9:30am. I don’t have a good sense of how many, I know that education is respected but I also know that a degree doesn’t guarantee you a job and some students will go straight to work. There are already kids dropping out in grade two, so my guess is that most of the ones who stick around until grade ten will continue but that won’t be all the students I’m working with now.
Hopefully that answered some of your ponderings. If you have any other questions feel free to post them in response to this, and I’ll answer them…. probably sometime next year!
- STARS: a review of my latest attempt at classroom management
- Games: why 25% of the school days were not instructional the past two weeks
- And other important reflections on my first two months of teaching