On top of the world
They watched the sun
rise over Annapurna, and helped take the elephants to the river. They trekked
the Chitwan jungle and tracked the elusive tiger and rhino. But above all, they
lost their hearts to the children of Nepal and confronted their own sense of
privilege. That's what happens when you move beyond being a tourist!
"But above all, they lost their hearts to the children of Nepal and confronted their own sense of privilege"
Fieldwork is a
standard part of several subjects, and the broader value of outdoor practical
experience is further recognised in a range of contexts from the Duke of
Edinburgh Award to the traditional Gap Year. But no-matter how you look at it,
nothing matches the intensity and inspiration of visiting the developing world
for the first time, especially if you are giving service rather than just being
a tourist. This really is creative learning at its best. BCS has linked up with pupils from Birkdale School (an Independent School in Sheffield and this has now become an annual trip. Pupils from Year 10-13 and staff (Peter Harris, group leader and other accompanying members of staff ) spend nearly three weeks over Easter on just such a life-changing visit to Nepal - the tenth
poorest country in the world, where they experience a nonstop sensory overload
from the minute they step off the plane, which was quite a culture shock for
The trip is designed not only to
experience the physical challenge of a 5-day trek in the Annapurna Himalayan mountains
and the natural wonders of a jungle safari at Chitwan but, significantly, to
work for a week in local schools in Kathmandu. In Chitwan National Park, the
groups regularly see rhino, monkeys, tiger tracks, exotic birdlife and
bath the elephants! This is followed with a five-day trek through
the amazing rhododendron-clad hills to view the Annapurna range of mountains
from Poon Hill at sunrise. And on top of that, an intrepid early morning flight takes many close to Mount Everest itself.
However, despite all
this, the most moving part of the trip and the part that has touched everyone's
hearts were the days spent in a Nepalese primary school. BCS pupils are
shocked at the high standard of uniform and incredibly high ability and
enthusiasm that the Nepalese children display, considering the very poor
homes that they come from. All pupils who go on the trip feel very humbled by the people -
who are always happy and cheerful considering the poverty. There are no discipline
problems as the pupils want to learn!
Nepal has a mixture
of state and privately-funded education although in this particular region the
state service is, at best, rudimentary and in need of significant investment. The
venture that BCS joined originated from Birkdale School ten years ago and has
seen the building of the Peace Garden School in Kathmandu. Nothing more than a
paddy field and the dream of a group of forward-thinking teachers back in 2000,
there now stands a thriving secondary school educating over 300 local children.
All monies raised by the Birkdale School community over the past ten years has
been carefully managed on the ground in Kathmandu by a local contact, a retired
Colonel from the British Army with a shrewd business sense and considerable
humanitarian and philanthropic beliefs.
BCS has adopted another school that had not previously received any Western
input. Located on the outskirts of the
city, this school, the "Noble Education System", is just four years
old and in comparison to the Peace Garden School, is considerably more crude;
not only in the fabric of the building but also the available teaching
The classrooms are
nothing more than shells - quite a shock for the BCS pupils! No Interactive
Whiteboards or computers, just chalk boards and limited second-hand textbooks dating
back to the 1980’s. The classrooms are primitive, with uneven brick floors,
low ceilings, small wooden desks and benches and no glass in the windows. With
corrugated tin roofing, one has only to imagine how unbearably hot these little
classrooms will become in the summer with no ventilation.Waste, including plastic, is burned
in the corner of the courtyard before school each morning! Yet despite all
this, these 3-15 year old pupils demonstrate a real passion for learning. Turning
up in impeccable uniforms, the value they placed on education is a humbling experience for us
all. They genuinely believed that education is, indeed, their salvation.
The focus of BCS is
to give the Nepalese pupils experience in speaking English. It is obvious
that these Nepalese children had been taught along very traditional, didactic
lines and we see that though their written work was very neat and ordered, they
didn’t necessarily understand how to apply this information. Prior to the trip,
the BCS pupils participate in workshops led by the BCS staff accompanying
them, to give basic instruction in delivering a lesson and also advice on how
to prepare teaching resources. Their creativity is clearly apparent. For
example, some of our Year 11 girls worked with pupils who were only a year or two
younger than themselves, but they effectively introduced the Nepalese pupils to
the language techniques of poetry and story writing whilst using imagery such
as similies, personification and metaphors. Relationships were forged and
mutual respect was apparent, especially with these older pupils. Younger pupils
were taught traditional nursery rhymes and played team games.
Since the first BCS trip in 2010 we have raised enough money to invest in the infrastructure of the school. We have paid for piped water to be installed and the building of a new toilet block, washstands and five new classrooms. It is hoped that future investment will be for teacher training.
"The experience has led us to conclude with the question of not only what these people can learn from us, but significantly, how we can learn from them in terms of value systems of what brings happiness in life"
The whole trip
enables our pupils to grow significantly. Many are challenged, both physically
and emotionally by the realisation of how different life is for these people. The experience has led us to conclude with the question of not only what these people can learn
from us, but, significantly, how we can learn from them in terms of value
systems and what brings happiness in life.
The Everest Flight