The Baglung District Education Officer invited West Lancashire based charity Resolve International to make its Quality Primary Education programme available to all schools in the District and to all schools in Nepal.
Keith Laycock, Chairman of the West Lancashire based charity was recently guest of honour at the official opening ceremony of new libraries at five schools in Pala, Western Nepal. ‘It was slightly bewildering to be the centre of such attention.’ admits Keith. ‘I was slightly out of breath having walked along narrow footpaths up a steep hill for half an hour after visiting another school’. Many officials had gathered a few hundred yards down from Dhimi Karina School where the event was about to take place. Keith was preceded by musicians playing drums, cymbals and Tibetan style long trumpets and was followed by the District Education Officer and all the other Head Teachers, officials and local politicians. On entering the school gates a huge commotion arose from hundreds of students, teachers and parents. ‘It was a bit like being a rock star for a brief moment’, remembers Keith.
The event lasted several hours with speeches by all the official guests. Students from each of the schools performed songs they had written about how wonderful it is to have a library. There was lots of dancing with an outstanding Nepali version of breakdancing by one young boy. Students had written songs about how great it is to have a library in their school and the difference it is making in their lives.
Keith travelled with an independent Nepalese consultant to all five schools to assess the project’s progress. Primary education in government schools generally produces poor results, so Resolve International with local organisation Nepal Gaja Development Foundation tested reading and comprehension at the start of the project and found that students were in grades one and two had limited reading or comprehension skills. Remedial teaching was given for one month to improve reading skills. Short courses with on-going support were provided for teachers at the five schools including; Library Management, Materials development and Child Friendly Teaching. ‘The results have been surprisingly good so far’, admits Keith Laycock.
This one year pilot project is funded by a grant of £32,800 from the British and Foreign School Society.
Most rural schools do not have libraries or access to additional reading materials. Those schools which do have books usually lock them away in cupboards, because they are too precious to allow children to spoil them. So educating the teachers about how to integrate the use of story books into the daily activities of the school was essential.
‘We interviewed teachers, students and parents at each of the schools in this pilot project and were amazed at the difference the project has made to the life of the schools’. Students reading and comprehension has improved, students behave better in class and teachers enjoy using the teaching techniques they have learnt. Classes are much more interactive than they used to be and lots of pictures and students work are on display in the classrooms. Students are allowed to take books home. ‘One young student told me that she takes a book home, reads it and returns it the next day and she has been doing this every school day since the library opened.’
One parent told Keith Laycock that she had not completed secondary school, so she now borrows books from the school library and enjoys reading them at home.
The project has another two months to run and further testing will reveal the true success of this pilot project.
‘The Government of Nepal has written a new curriculum which focuses on early grade reading, but training for teachers will not be available in all schools straight away, so we are already examining the potential of expanding the scope of this Quality Education project in more schools in Nepal, but of course we will need lots of support,’ adds Keith Laycock.
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