Teach For Nepal

Working to change the nation

As some of you may know, I work as a Teach for America (TFA) Campus Campaign Coordinator at Boston College. I'm the guy on campus who spreads the word about educational inequity with the slogan, "One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education". Addressing the problems in education is my passion, and in coming to Nepal, I wanted to continue this work in whatever way I could.

Walking into Teach For Nepal
——Walking into the Teach For Nepal office in Kupindole, Nepal

Before getting into Nepal and with the help of my TFA manager and her team (thanks Izzy and Michaela!), I was able to get in touch with TFA affiliate group Teach for Nepal (TFN). To better understand my work, it is important to understand the situation, the problem, and the solution.

The situation:
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  • Nepal has two kinds of schools—government (public) schools and private schools. Government schools lack quality teachers and educational resources. Private schools on the other hand are in much better shape. This difference in quality is at the root of the disparity in performance on the SLC (School Leaving Certificate) that all Nepali students take upon leaving school (see graphic to the right—there's a 65% difference in end-of-school passing rates between government and private schools!).
  • This incredible disparity is due in part to:
    1. poverty (families not able to afford uniforms, supplies, and backpacks for their children),
    2. lack of quality (especially with the shortage of English-speaking teachers),
    3. and location (schools in the village having much less than schools in the city).
The problem:
  • Nearly 360,293 Nepali students failed the 2014 SLC exit exam. Failing the SLC forces young people into low paying jobs, high-risk situations, and the vicious cycle of poverty.
The solution:
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  • There is a proverb that says "It takes a whole village to raise a child," a sentiment that could not be any more relevant to the above problem. In order for a student to succeed, it takes more than just the teacher. There are many different stakeholders who play a part in a child's education. A problem of educational inequity is and should be everyone's concern.
  • One organization that is actively working to address the big picture problems in education is Teach For Nepal, a nation-wide movement fueled by top-notch Nepali university graduates who commit to two years of fellowship teaching in high-need government schools. Its mission is to work towards bringing education equity and long-term systemic change in education to all of Nepal.

Getting to work on the solution:

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  • Teach For Nepal is a partner of Teach For America and follows closely to the same core values and principles. With the understanding that educational inequity is a pervasive problem, TFN works to bridge the gap through the highly-selective recruiting of transformative leaders for government classrooms throughout the nation. When I got in touch with the TFN team of around 10 people who run operations for the whole nation, I was asked to help with developing the college ambassador program. This is exactly the same kind of work that I do back at Boston College and it was so natural for me to start helping right away. Below, I will do my best to highlight two projects I have been working on in my time so far.

    1. Teach for Nepal Online Information Session

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  • TFN reaches out to potential applicants through advertisements (newspaper, magazine, micro-bus posts, etc.), social media (Facebook, Youtube, and its website), and in-person information sessions. The most effective form of outreach is through information sessions, where TFN staff present an interactive presentation about the information I explained above and why one should join TFN. It is a powerful presentation that even I have sat in on many times in practicing my Nepali listening. The problem, however, is that this information is only transmitted in the TFN Office located in Kupindole—about a one hour commute for me by micro-bus! Living in the Kathmandu Valley, traveling from one end to the another is time consuming. When info sessions are found in just one place in the country, we are missing out on the opportunity in reaching countless number of talented leaders.

    In addressing this issue, the CEO of TFN, Shisir Khanal proposed the idea of bringing the TFN information sessions to the applicants. This was an idea I helped put together through the planning, filming, and editing of an online information session. Starting in late-October, we were working against the clock in meeting the nation's final recruiting deadline of November 30. We were able to finish the production in the first week of November and now, TFN can be talked about anywhere in the nation; actually, pretty much anywhere in the world! Check it out for yourself below.

    2. College Ambassador Mentoring

    Being a college ambassador is not easy. Everywhere you go, you embody the values, goals, and brand of the particular organization you are representing. As a college ambassador for TFA on campus, I have learned that effectiveness comes when you act on your words—for words don't mean much when left on the page. An aspiration that the TFN Recruitment Manager I worked with wanted me to help accomplish is the strengthening of the newly formed college ambassador program in the country.

    Across Nepal, there are about 10 TFN college ambassadors at top Nepali universities like Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University. These ambassadors were brought on-board less than six-months prior and due to the busy recruiting schedule of the past months, were not able to receive a solid training in their duties. Essentially, these duties are much similar to what I do on campus—inspire other college students to join the fight toward ending education injustice. Much like myself, the TFN college ambassadors were very enthusiastic and passionate about changing education. This made it so exciting for me to help them learn their roles!

    With the training materials from when I first started working as a TFA college ambassador, I adapted the content to match the context of Nepal and TFN. I have been presenting workshops to the TFN college ambassadors on topics like effective campus outreach, marketing, and most importantly, recruiting. See below for a look at this work!

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    What's next?

    With about one month left for me in Nepal, I will be wrapping up my visiting work in helping the college ambassadors. I have learned so much from this team about the Nepali education system and it is so apparent that educational inequity can happen anywhere in the world. When I return to Boston in 2015, I look forward to tackling the problems back home with a renewed energy for bringing change to education.