Thu, 20 Feb, 2020

Interview: Umesh Pyakurel

By Kundan Shumsher Rana

[caption id="attachment_5826" align="aligncenter" width="540"]Photo Courtesy: Umesh Pyakhurel Photo Courtesy: Umesh Pyakurel[/caption]

The DWIT News club and DWIT Social Service Club conducted a workshop on creative writing and art in Shree Baal Byabasayee Kendra Secondary School, Sifal. We have taken an interview of the Assistant Headmaster of the School, Mr Umesh Pyakurel. We had a little talk with him and he shared some of his thoughts about the school, their present situation and their future plans.

Q) Please tell us something about the school.

We have two shifts of students studying here, morning and day. The students of grades 7, 8, 9, 10 have morning classes. We have about a total of 300 students in these grades. The students from nursery to grade 6 have day classes and they total in at about 200. In total we have about 500 students studying in this school. About the past of this school, it was established in 2018 BS. We have had 3 principals since then and our current principals is the 4th. In the past we had about 50-50 girls to boys ratio but we currently have a 6:4 ratio.

Q) Can you tell us about the type of students who attend this school?

The children who come here are poor. We have a Baal Samrakshan Samiti nearby and children whose parents who have committed a crime and are in jail come here. The kids are mostly of our own locality. So people assume that it is a Bal Sangathan school but it is not. This school is separate from that. Some of the students here live in the hostel of the Bal Sangathan since it is close. All of the children there come here to study, we have been called that from time to time. The kids who work as extra help in other people"s house come here. Only 15-25% of the kids studying here are with their parents or relatives.

Many of the students here have seen a crime been committed by their parents or someone close to them. These type of kids have a different mindset from regular kids. Since they have seen what happens when you commit a crime, they tend to be more violent. They are good in their studies but they rarely follow rules and stay in discipline. They have experienced violence and other crimes and can explain it clearly. They have gone through things that we can only imagine. So those type of students tend to stay out of discipline. Since they aren"t with their local guardian and stay in hostels so they stat out of track. Our school has a strict code of conduct about discipline, we try to keep them in line. So we haven"t had any matters in this regard.

Q) In Nepal, especially in poor families, girls are given less chances to go to school. Do girls drop out after reaching a certain level?

If a girl fails in a grade and have to repeat it, they tend to drop out and go to another school. Also, in our society girls are married off when they reach 14-16 years of age. So some might drop out due to this reason.

Also what happens, kids of grade 7 – 12, they reach teenage so they fall in love very quickly. If a person doesn"t have a boyfriend or girlfriend they are humiliated. This is all due to social media. Its effects have had a huge impacts on the students. If we find any cases where we find a puppy love case, we bring them into our office and try to reason with them about the impact this will cause in their lives. Fortunately, online slots we have had very little cases like this.

Q) What about the fee structure? How do the students pay? Do students drop out of school due to not being able to pay the fees?

We take only nominal fee so that has not happened. Even though we are the type of school that we are, every year some of our students are able to score distinction in SLC and that has never decreased.

The thing about the students is that most of them have to work in hotels, or as extra help in households and some of them don"t tend to have a stable work place so they travel from place to place. In this case, they transfer the students to other places. More than due to fees they travel due to unstable place to stay.

Second, they also travel due to the expensive life style of Kathmandu, they go back to their homes and villages. So there are very less students who drop out due to fees.

Even if some drop out, students from other schools come to our school so this makes our total number of students balanced out.

Q) What type of health facility do you have here?

We have a first aid box for some minor injuries. In case of any injuries that we cannot handle, we take them to the nearby hospital and inform the guardian. In case any of the students are ill, we have a counseling room where students can go and sleep in case of headaches, fainting, stress, and other minor things. If they cannot continue on with the day, we call the guardian and send them home.

Q)How does the government take care of the renovation of the school? What do they do for the students?

The government provides us with the necessary books for the students up to class 10. They also give students scholarship for some of the gifted students. They provide scholarship for the Dalit Janajatis to inspire them to join schools.

The school renovations are done by us. We receive donations from foreign sources as well. Currently a social service group from Holland are here and they paint and renovate the school. They are a group of volunteers 10 people. They teach English to the students in the morning. they collect funds and donations so they can provides the school with enough infrastructures.

Everything you see around you is due to the help of this group.

The infrastructures that we have are not provided by the government but we get them through social  service channels.

Q)The students who graduate from here have to compete with students  from private schools as well. So what skills do you provide the students other than the usual course work that helps students?

We teach students from grade 4-9 how to use a computer. We have some difficulties for providing grade 10 students computer classes since they are in SLC level. We take in volunteer teachers who can teach our students well. We have a volunteer teacher who is from ACME engineering college. He teaches 12 classes in the morning.

From their early childhood to class 4 we have an English medium. We are slowly upgrading that. We have extra English and extra math in grades 1-9. We give coaching classes to weak students throughout the year. So I am proud to say that the result and quality of our school is no less than any private schools. Our students are completely capable to compete with students of private schools.

We run a class named ECD class. It is for little kids of pre-primary and primary level. It can also be called Child Development Class. Two years ago we have opened science lab and a library for the students to go and study. We also collaborate with an institution called Youth Foundation. They come in and teach the kids about different things like English, Maths, Arts, Creative Writing and other essential skills.

Q)What are your future plans for this school? How do you plan to move it forward?

Our first priority is to provide free education to students of all levels. The government believes that education should be free to all and we believe in that too. We plan to make it true in the future. We believe that even the nominal fee should be removed. For this we need budget from the government. We are still requesting the government for that.

In the near future we are planning to add 2 level to the school. We will be teaching Management,Humanities and Education sectors. We are searching for teacher who can teach students of 2 level.