by Burleigh Bodart, Greenheart Travel Correspondent Scholarship Winner in Nepal
It feels like I’ve been with these kids much longer than just a few weeks. My little class of nine has been great…wild at times, but so much fun. I teach Grade 1 English to them, which is pretty challenging when you’re not able to speak their language. They are fast learners though, and I love them so much.
Juanjo, a volunteer from Spain, originally taught this class. He went trekking for a few weeks to break up his long 9 weeks of volunteering, so I took over his class when I got here. He came back just a few days ago and the kids were so excited to see him. It was adorable watching them climb all over him and scream his name.
We walk to the government school everyday around noon to teach for an hour and half. The classroom I teach in is upstairs and has a view out the front of the school to the long road that leads up to it. Every time we turn onto that road I hear the shrieks of excitement…”Hi Miss!” “Hi Miss!!”. As soon as you walk in the door, you are swarmed by a mob of children as they fight for your hands to hold as you walk to your classroom. All the students are so eager to speak to the volunteers and practice their English.
The differences between schools here and those back at home go far beyond what I had imagined. The school sits next to the orphanage, so a good amount of the students come from the orphanage. The classrooms are lined with old wooden bench-like desks with years of inscriptions covering their surfaces. One whiteboard is mounted to the front of the room surrounded by the concrete walls, completely barren aside from the brown smudges of dirt. The children wear uniforms; most of them are worn and tattered. I found it most surprising that my students possess only one pencil. They take out their dented pencil tins to pull out their pencils, some only an inch long. Only a few of them have an eraser or pencil sharpener, so these items are passed around the classroom frequently. They are all very willing to share.
Memories of my childhood make me feel so guilty. Going to the store to pick out new folders and notebooks out of the hundreds of options. The isles were filled with crazy patterns, holographic pictures, cute animal folders, in every color imaginable. Here, they all have the same generic notebook that is bought from the stationary stands on every street. No mechanical pencils. No colorful erasers. Just the regular yellow pencils and white erasers that no one I know uses anymore. Each day a student will show me the cool sticker they got or the picture they doodled in their notebook with the three little colored pencils they found somewhere. Their eyes light up as I walk around the room to see their work and put a big check mark at the top of their papers. If I’m helping one student, another will sneakily grab my marker to draw on their hands or add color to their notes. I wish I could supply them all with new notebooks, new folders, a pack of markers, fun erasers, pencil pouches, and all the things we load up on before each school year.
They impress me every day in class. We do a lot of demonstrations to make sure they understand the meaning of words and somehow each demonstration ends in a full-out dance party led by Sanjiv. He is the youngest in the class and his smile is absolutely adorable. All of them have such different personalities. Jitendra is very smart, but is reluctant to take notes and do work. He doesn’t disrupt the class, but sits there in his own little world. After flipping through his notebook I noticed he likes to draw. Every few pages is filled with an amazing picture. Ajay is the smartest in the class and absolutely loves getting his picture taken. I said the word “tomorrow” in Nepali one day after learning that “Bholi” sounds somewhat like my name. Ajay jumped up with a surprised smile and said “Nepali miss, Nepali!!!” I’m glad my one word could impress him. Everyday after that I’ve tried to learn a new word so I could see that excited expression on his face.
The kids from the orphanage were on a day trip the other day, so only four of my students were in class. More than half of my kids come from the orphanage so it was a quiet classroom that day. I took out my camera and we had a fun photo shoot at the end of class.
Our last day was today so Juanjo, Danielle, Martina, and I had our little meeting with the principal and head teachers. We drank tea and ate biscuits before getting our goodbye tikka. The principal is very friendly after meeting him at other volunteers’ goodbye parties. He loves to take pictures with each volunteer before we leave. We posed outside for a few more pictures before our final goodbye. The school has been so accommodating. They expressed how much they appreciate our help before sending us on our way with their best wishes.