Friday, 30 September 2016

A birthday, a new school, and a lot of head teachers

We celebrated Barbara’s birthday last weekend! The Bashyals surprised her with a cake and I bought her the most ridiculous party hat I could find, and we had an evening of take away food and local beer, shared with a very well dressed Swiss couple. Me and Barbara had spent the Saturday morning working and planning the head teacher’s session, before going out to stretch our legs around Tansen.
While Barbara knows Tansen like the back of her hand, I am quite sure I’ll be losing my way around its winding streets for some time. 

We walked up to Srinegar Hill and though it has rained quite heavily since we arrived, (Dhani had already rescued me from falling flat on my face on the steep and very slippery slope up to the homestay that morning) the sun beat down on us and we were quite hot by the time we reached the top (i.e. I was a sweating mess). As we watched, gaps in the clouds revealed the pink and yellow shapes of mountains, though I could never be sure if I was looking at shifting clouds or solid rock. I’m promised that you can see nearly the entire Annapurna range on a clear day, so I’m sure I’ll be back up there for another gawk before long.

We made our way back through the town, and it was almost eerie seeing everything shut up and closed except for a few food stalls. Saturdays are rest days, so the children are home from school and most of the shops are shut tight. Children raced down the steep streets, pausing in their games only to shout: ‘Where are you from?’ I feel like I am asked this question a hundred times a day, I might start fibbing and telling people somewhere exotic like Hawaii or the Seychelles.

On Sunday we visited the Devbari school in Tansen, just down the hill from our office at the Red Cross building. We met the head and his deputy who were fantastic, so forward thinking and grateful that we were there. They were arguing for more continuous assessment instead of the painful exams the children have to endure each term (Abhi, the Bashyal’s son, is currently doing an exam a day for seven days – and he does this four times a year, a whole month of exams in the school year that might be better used for teaching and revising methods perhaps?). They were also eager to create a science laboratory in the school, and said that a teachers training is never done, and every single member of staff at the school, both government and private, could benefit from extra training. Barbara and I left quite pleased and hopeful.

On Tuesday we held a head teachers meeting at Rock Regency, a hotel in town. Eighteen head teachers and deputies came to see us, and Barbara asked them to organise their priorities for the children (things like success, exam results, happiness, safety) and discuss what had gone well in their schools over the last year, and touched on early years practices. I stood up and spoke about utilising the libraries more successfully, making sure that the teachers are sharing books with the children, and most importantly, are listening to the children read and checking their reading ability and engagement with the stories. We want to ensure that teachers are not just sat passively in the corner of the room while the children read silently on the floor. I was so hot as I spoke, not nervous so much as just very aware that everybody was looking at me, I was astounded to see that some people were even taking notes! After this little rush, I had to go and turn the fan on to calm down, and everyone laughed at me.

It was agreed that Barbara, myself, Saran and Sagar - our champion translators and the core of Manisha Nepal Palpa - deserved a slap up lunch to celebrate. We might have had to wait over an hour for our food, but to pass the time Sagar was telling us about Russia in the early nineties (all vodka coupons and swimming in frozen lakes) so I decided to have another crack at War and Peace that night. I think I made it through about five pages on the kindle before falling asleep. Sorry Tolstoy.

And one from last week with Ann!

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