Wednesday, 25 June 2008

A normal week in Kathmandu?

We thought we'd regale you with a few tales of life here in Kathmandu this week.

On Friday some good friends of ours had their third child. The husband, Ryan, runs the ICT department with Dan and his wife Chandra has been the Primary PA until a couple of weeks ago. Chandra had quite long labours with her first two children, born in the states, but this one was so quick that she delivered in the corridor while they waited for a bed to become available in the delivery room. This turned out to be quite a blessing as it meant Ryan could be there for the delivery as men aren't normally allowed into the delivery room. We went and visited them on Friday evening with Pizza (as the hospitals here don't provide food)and were able to have a hold, we're fairly sure it was the first time either of us had seen a baby less than a day old since our little sisters were born!

The last couple of weeks have seen several bunda's (strikes) by various groups which have a big effect on the day to day life of the average Nepali.

Last week we had a bunda in the whole of Patan (the part of Kathmandu we live in) which means no traffic was allowed on the roads. Often informal road blocks are put up by the people who have called the strike and vehicles caught on the roads are attacked. Anyway this is not unusual and happens reasonably regularly. So we carried on as normal and thought nothing of it, until we found out the reason for the strike. The government minister for forestry had locked a local official from Patan in a toilet for an hour and a half! His reasoning was because he thought the official was involved in corruption of some sort. So beware if you are ever tempted to get involved in some kind of corruption we now know what to do with you!

Most of the recent Bunda's have been to do with the rise in fuel prices and we're currently in the middle of one that's been ongoing for the last 4 days. With tomorrow being the last day of school we have a big graduation ceremony at a Radisson Hotel on the opposite side of Kathmandu. We're praying that we will be able to all get there, along with all the stuff we need so that we can end the year on a high note.

The second thing that has happened is that we heard last Wednesday that a group of students at a university here in Nepal were protesting. The reason being... they had not been allowed to cheat in their final exams (as is normally the case). We were told that a few years ago there was a photo taken of the students in these exams hanging out the windows of the exam hall copying their answers out of a text book which someone outside was holding up for them. Apparently cheating in many exams is extremely common and widespread.

Finally, since I last wrote about the one laptop per child school I've had loads of people write about how interesting they found it. I have now found a page on wikipedia which the people running the project at Bashuki school are keeping updated. So if you want to read more about this individual school look at the following link.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

One Laptop per child

Some of you may have heard of the one laptop per child scheme which was set up by Mary Lou Jepson. Her aim was to build a laptop that could be used in the most extreme environments, run on solar power, have Internet access and all for $100 or less. The first version she built cost $180 and is being pioneered around the world. They have also recently developed a new one for about $70.

Currently in Nepal there are two schools pioneering the project. The teacher training programme attached to KISC has been working closely with the scheme in developing Nepali resources for the laptops and helping in the training of the teachers in one of these schools. Nepal is the first country to start developing resources for the laptops based on their own curriculum.

Last Wednesday (4th June) I had the privilege of visiting this school with 2 other BMS workers, David Browell one of the teacher trainers, and Andrew Kohn the other Geography teacher and Secondary Principle at KISC, as well as our Grade 6 class (year 7) who will be my homeroom next year.

The school is on the edge of Kathmandu valley on a ridge with only a very rough road up along cliff edges most of the way. So after a fairly hairy ride up there we went into the school and spent some time playing games to help the two groups of children mix. We had 12 children while they have about 30 in their year 7, and a lot of other children from years 8 and 9 too as they were curious to meet these foreign children.

It is a very poor community with many of the children missing large parts of the school year as they have to help with the planting and at harvest time. Many walk over an hour to get to school, including most of the teachers who walk an hour and a half up the hill after the bus journey to get to the end of the main road.

It was great to see our very privileged children who are from 8 different countries themselves getting alongside the Nepali children and learning from them. I think it was a great opportunity for both groups of children to learn from each other culturally, and a great opportunity for us all to see such an exciting programme taking place and working effectively to improve the education and opportunities of a very poor community under the dedicated hard work of their teachers.