2015 turned out to be a challenging year for Nepal. The two big earthquakes of April 25th and May 12th killed nearly 9,000 people, damaged thousands of buildings and other infrastructure, and destroyed the livelihoods of many people while displacing hundreds of families and communities. As the country started cleaning up the debris and was slowly rising from the rubble, we were met with another crisis when strikes and protest programs were launched by various groups and ethnicities who felt their demands were not addressed in the newly promulgated constitution. The ensuing violence and blockades were a major setback in the efforts towards recovery from the earthquake, and sent the country’s sputtering economy into a tailspin, and crippled the lives of the millions of Nepalis. Despite the many setbacks, we at OLE Nepal tried our best to stick to our plans and carry out our scheduled activities.
After numerous visits to Gorkha and meeting with parents, schools and communities, we have decided to help reconstruct four primary schools in rural parts of the district. Each school will have eight rooms to accommodate classrooms, playroom for pre-school children, laptop room and office. We spent a lot of time researching various building designs and consulted the building codes prepared by the government. Based on suggestions from experts and our own observations from the field, we are narrowing on a single storey design based on a truss system. We will be using durable yet safe materials for walls that also provide better insulation. Read more
We reached new heights with our laptop program in 2015. We added 33 primary schools in the remote Bajhang district, bringing the total number of schools with laptops in the district to 43. This is the single largest deployment of ICT-based education program in any district in Nepal by an non-governmental body. Many of the schools have been fitted with solar panels to power the laptops. A total of 165 teachers from the district participated in seven-day long training programs, and our trainers visited each of the 33 schools to conduct in-school training and community orientation.
We also deployed laptops in Pangboche Primary School, near the Everest Base Camp. Sitting at 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above the sea level, this is most likely the highest altitude where the laptop program has been implemented. Our team trekked four days on the EBC trail to reach the school, moving slowly along the popular trekking route to acclimatize. They brought laptops, digital library server and all networking tools, and trained the teachers so that they can use the resources to improve classroom teaching-learning practices.
In 2015, we also introduced mother tongue-based education in the indigenous Chepang community using laptops loaded with digital learning content, E-Paath, that we had prepared in Chepang language. This has been seen as a major milestone in improving learning opportunities in indigenous communities where children often struggle in classrooms since they do not understand the language of instruction, Nepali. This has been cited as the primary reason behind high dropout rate among children from indigenous communities.
We ventured outside the formal education system, and brought laptop-based education programs to learning centers for out of school children inBanke and Chitwan districts. The digital library servers were installed along with the laptops in four learning center, and the facilitators from all the centers were trained on using digital resources to teach students effectively.
The above accomplishments were even more praiseworthy in light of the fact that our team carried out the activities despite the earthquake and the seemingly never ending aftershocks, the ongoing strikes and unrest, and the shortage of fuel and other essentials. Our program staff, trainers, technical team, monitoring personnel, interns and volunteers traveled extensively during the year to reach to remote schools, braving the aftershocks when trekking twice up in the Everest region; often travelling early morning or late evening to circumvent the curfew when traveling to the far western region. With the highway blocked due to strikes, the logistics of delivering laptops, equipment and furniture to schools turned out to be much more challenging too.
Laptops Support & Partnerships
We owe it to so many individuals, groups, communities and organizations for supporting us in our movement to transform education in Nepal. We continue to partner with Nepal’s Department of Education and the District Education Offices to introduce improved teaching-learning approaches in public schools. We have also entered the eighth year of partnership with the UN World Food Programme to bring exciting educational resources through laptops in the far western regions. We are also fortunate to receive support from the Embassy of Finland for the fifth year, which has allowed us to create digital learning activities and install solar energy systems in remote schools. Read more
Looking ahead in 2016
We have a lot of work cut out for 2016. We plan to expand the laptop program to another district, Baitadi, in the far western region, while continuing to work closely with program schools in Bajhang. We will be completing the development of interactive digital learning activities, E-Paath, in English, science and mathematics till grade 8.
In addition, we plan to complete the build of four schools in Gorkha as part of our earthquake reconstruction project, and introduce laptop programs there as well.
We will also seek partnerships to install our free and open digital library, E-Pustakalaya, in more schools so that students, teachers and community members can have fast and easy access to thousands of books, educational videos, and many other learning resources locally.
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