Thursday, 11 January 2018

Educate The Girls

Although the African proverb, “If we educate a boy, we educate one person, if we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation,” sounds like a cliché, it is an ultimate reality. An educated pool of girls can make a huge impact in the development process of any nation.

This fact has been reflected in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number five which emphasizes “Gender Equality.” SDGs are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations to be achieved by 2030.

Since the Education for All (EFA, 2000 - 2015) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000 - 2015) were set forth a lot of improvements have been achieved in girls’ education. For instance, the enrollment rate of girls in primary as well as in secondary level education has increased, the number of girls outside of primary school has been significantly reduced and girls are, on average, completing more years of schooling. However, there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality.

The government of Nepal has taken several initiatives to encourage girls’ education at community schools, such as providing them with scholarships, implementation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene ( WASH) programme and recruiting more female teachers. Yet, their participation in the education sector remains relatively low.  As a result, there is a dire lack of women particularly in leadership roles in almost every sphere of life. Well educated girls can bring unprecedented changes firstly in their lives, families, communities and nations.

Different reports show that children of educated women are less likely to suffer infant mortality; the women who are well informed about health care are less likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth or at the postpartum phase. The problem of child marriage is still acute in Nepal; to discourage this, first of all, the girls need to stand up for themselves and education helps them to do so. A research study reveals that on average, for every year a girl stays in school past fifth grade, her marriage is delayed by a year. Educated girls usually marry later, when they are better able to provide and care for their offspring. Such an aware bunch of girls can help control population growth as well because they prefer not to have many children for the welfare of their family. They will be capable of participating in politics or take up higher level decision-making roles. Most importantly, educated women have a greater chance to escape poverty by involving themselves in income generating work. This way, they can improve the standard of living for their children, families, communities and eventually their nations. 

We can say that without educating girls at the maximum level it is hard for a nation to prosper. Therefore, there should be more effective programs to bring all girls to school, to help them continue and complete schooling and encourage them to go for higher studies. Once they are able to take all the informed decisions related to their life independently we can say that the “girls’ education” mission is complete and this will contribute to the achievement of SDG 5 “Gender Equality.” Gene B. Sperling et. al. are right to say “No Nation can afford to NOT educate its girls” because investing in girls can give rise to unimaginable returns.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 
[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Is This That Easy?

I have found many people take teaching young learners a very casual affair. When I excitedly share the idea of opening my own school to teach little children they frown and give their opinions with surprise “Ae…bhura bhurilai padhaune aba?”; “Testa bhuralai padhauna ta ke chha ra?” or some even say, “PhD garera pani testa sigane ketaketi lai padhaune ra?”

It is as if teaching young children is not a ‘real’ job at all; apparently anybody can do it. This is further confirmed by those people who come to my door asking for a job to teach at my school even though they are not sufficiently qualified. A World Education report indicates that there are around 250 million primary school age children worldwide that lack a standard basic foundation of knowledge although almost half of them are in school. There are several research studies conducted in different countries which show that many children spend two or three years in school without learning to read a single word. Why is this case?

Obviously, one of the main reasons is the recruitment of less qualified teachers at early grades, as the same World Education report says that in northern Nigeria, for example, 78 per cent of 1,200 basic education teachers were found to have “limited” knowledge of English after taking a reading comprehension test and correcting sentences written by a 10-year-old. The situation is not much different in Nepal either. For instance, there was a study conducted by the government of Nepal in partnership with the US government to assess reading ability of students from grades one to three in community schools and the findings were not encouraging because a substantial percentage of students were not able to read even a single Nepali word correctly; and teachers are massively blamed for this. 

The early years are the most formative years for children when they need to get enough exposure which can help them to shape their future life. It is said that greater investment in educating children in early grades will lead to more positive results. It is unfortunate for developing countries like ours where the teachers who teach at lower grades are the least qualified. How can students achieve broad knowledge and skills when they are being taught by teachers with limited knowledge and inadequate teaching skills? 

Teachers must not only master the subjects they teach; they must also be aware of contemporary issues and they must develop strong teaching skills to impart the lessons to students. We know that the early years are a strong basis on which children’s later learning depends. Therefore all concerned people should make sure that children at this stage get every opportunity to flourish in all possible aspects.

For this, they need well qualified teachers who are informed about child psychology, learning and teaching theories and most importantly they must understand individual student’s learning needs and teach addressing those needs. In my opinion, it is a wrong belief that one should not be qualified enough to teach little children or anyone can enter the class because it is easy to teach bhuraburi. If not more, the early grade teachers should also be as equally qualified as the teachers who teach at upper grades.
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 
[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Friday, 29 December 2017

The Parental Gift

Everyone wants their child to be brilliant and excellent when it comes to academic performance. We want our child to be well mannered, disciplined and brighter than other children we know and to achieve this goal we spend a lot of time and money. However, we rarely think about their interests and as a result, want them to engross in their studies during all their waking hours.

Do we as adults work from the moment we wake up till the moment our head hits the pillow every single day? No, we most certainly do not. We go to our designated workplace and work for a specified number of hours. When we get home, we crave rest and relaxation. We want to lie down on the couch and pass the hours doing something that gives us pleasure. At the same time we badger our kids about their homework.

The children spend at least six hours in school; they work hard to learn something new every minute. As soon as they come home, we want them to finish their homework and the next morning, the cycle begins again. Aside from the workload given by schools and study pressure created by parents, some children also have to attend private tuition classes on top of everything else. Fair enough, our intentions are good but have we ever thought about what our children are going through? The unnecessary pressure on studies that we put on children might backfire and they might become victims of psychological problems.
One of my friends who has been working as a lecturer sends her six year old daughter to attend tuition classes early in the morning and the little one has to eat in a hurry to catch the school bus before 9.00 AM. Once the girl is back she has to bury her head in books for hours to finish all her homework. After putting them under such pressure, we then boast about the progress made by our children. Basically we measure their academic ability as their only strength. However, academic results themselves do not ensure a successful life, and too much focus on them can inhibit social development and confidence. I wonder why we pay such hefty fees to schools if we have to hire a private tutor for our children. If schools cannot teach students properly and if children cannot do their homework given by schools we need to rethink what the schools are doing to our children.
Putting too much pressure on children to succeed might be counter-productive and they can feel less inspired and more threatened. Parents usually do not realize how they are killing their children's childhood for the price of their own happiness by relating children's academic progress to every other aspect of their lives.
Research studies indicate that unnecessary academic pressure to be successful might haunt children. They’ll be terrified of not doing well and as a result, they will not actually learn and succeed like they otherwise would. If your child feels inadequate due to not achieving a certain grade, let them know that you are there for them and that a grade does not determine whether or not they are a good person. Let the children be children and let them grow at their own pace. As parents you can support them by providing them with a suitable environment so that their growth will not be obstructed.
(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 
[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]