Thursday – First visits to Samata Nikatan and Naxal

If we thought yesterday was information overload, it was as nothing compared with today! We were woken by loud drumming, horns blaring and the sound of a very noisy procession somewhere very close to the hotel but not in sight.  We discovered over breakfast that it is a protest, today and tomorrow – called by Government workers –  against the Maoists who organised Tuesday’s strike!  They were blockading Durbar Square and making it very difficult for people to get to work, and impossible for government officials whose offices are located in and around the square.

When we left at 9.00 we came out of the hotel compound straight into a demonstration being led by senior students from the school across the road.  Our driver told us that anti Maoist officials often have links with the schools and can threaten to withdraw their funding if they won’t cooperate. Because of all the chaos it took us nearly an hour to get to Samata, by which time all the children were having their open air assembly in the huge ‘playground’  which is in reality just a large area – very uneven – and covered in sand which turns into mud as soon as there is any rain.  The minute we appeared all the children started to clap and we were asked to walk through them onto a platform from which we were introduced and presented with garlands and silk scarves as a welcome.  The children then sang for us and  then  their assembly with a Hindu Prayer and a promise that they would make best use of every moment of their day in school.

Seeing the best part of a thousand children aged from 5 – 18 lined up in their school uniform and so eager to learn was very moving as they clearly have very little of their own and want to make the most of every opportunity the school provides.  Those who are orphans actually live above the classrooms and looked after by a group of carers.

Having seen the children sent back to their classrooms,  the young ‘coordinator’ of the school (who looks about 15!)  took us into the classes where we will be working to meet the pupils and their teachers. We knew that the classrooms were small – and the classes large – but we didn’t fully appreciate just how small, dark and cramped they are.  The class numbers in many cases are even bigger than we were told and can fluctuate from week to week by quite a few.  They are using Oxford international English textbooks, dating from the ’90’s and the learning is very much by rote as it is almost impossible to do anything else given the accomodation.  we were taken aback by the number of classes they would like us to work with and the methods they use.  However, it is NOT our culture and we cannot just barge in and say ‘this is how it should be done’.  They have achieved very high results in the school leaving certificate – some of the best in Kathmandu, so they must be doing something right.  Mary, Janice and I came away feeling that we would have to re-think what we had hoped to do and would need to spend our observation day tomorrow really trying to get our heads aroud how they make it work.

From Samata we returned into central Kathmandu to Naxal, which is a very different proposition.  I think that Chris and Anne will have a much easier time her as previous volunteers have clearly had a big impact on the environment in the orphanage and the toddlers and babies they will be working with are gorgeous!  They are still issues around discipline to resolve – sticks were in evidence as a threat, though very rarely used apparently.  The building is very old and has been renovated prettywell.  It reminded of the orphanage we visited in Craiova – Romania, but was in far better condition and with hugely more resources.  We all felt that it would be far easier to facilate change here than at the school, but it’s very early days and we need to listen and learn.  Tomorrow promises to be fascinating!……

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2 Responses to “Thursday – First visits to Samata Nikatan and Naxal”

  1. anne from finland Says:

    What a day you had! You ought to write a book of all this!

  2. Chris Says:

    Hi Meg,
    I’ve emailed some ideas for media activities / using film. Hope you can download the power points okay.

    It sounds as though you are going through a cultural epiphany at the moment.

    The pictures are coming through without any problems.

    Let me know whether the ideas are of any use.

    Chris.

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