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Helping rebuild the Nepalese education system

Bhaktapur, Nepal, after the 2015 Earthquake

Daphne De Souza is currently volunteering as a Policy Adviser at the Ministry of Education in the Government of Nepal. Daphne has been a VSO volunteer since February 2014.  Following the recent earthquakes Daphne decided to stay in Nepal and continue her important work.

A volunteer in Nepal

I’m volunteering as a Policy Adviser at the Ministry of Education.  The key challenges facing Nepal’s education sector are how to increase access to schools and improve the quality of education, particularly basic education (grades 1 to 8). I’m supporting the School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP) - a seven year education plan for the country focussing on access, inclusion and quality.

A typical day could include waking up at the crack of dawn, buying fruit and vegetables for the day, and cooking breakfast and supper for the evening. I catch the 9.30am Government bus to the Ministry and chat to colleagues on the bus in broken Nepali. Typical office tasks include working on a draft donor evaluation report, developing briefings for the Minister, or coordinating a working group of experts. I also help my colleagues with their English whilst they support me with my Nepali. The evening may involve going to a documentary screening with friends and other volunteers.

After the earthquake

Nepal experienced a massive earthquake on 25th April 2015 and a second large earthquake on 12th May 2015. Sadly thousands of people lost their lives and many more were left homeless. 

Following the earthquake I was given the opportunity to return home, but I made the decision to stay. It was a very difficult decision, as I had no disaster relief experience and I did not want to be a burden on scarce resources.  However, the partner organisation I’m working with was keen for me to return to work as usual.  People in the community where I’m living also wanted me to stay and help.

The earthquake has had a devastating impact on Nepal’s education system, as many schools have been damaged or destroyed, threatening to undo years of improvements. Initial assessments have indicated that over 35,000 classrooms have been destroyed, directly affecting more than one million children.

Over 35,000 classrooms have been destroyed

My role has changed since the earthquakes. I have mostly been ensuring that children in the affected areas have access to temporary learning centres, sanitary facilities, textbooks and psychosocial support. I’ve been also been helping to raise money to fund the work.

Sharing skills

Quality teaching is one of the main priorities for Nepal’s education sector. I have witnessed first-hand how VSO teacher trainers have effectively shared their skills and how it has vastly benefited the children in those schools. The volunteers also gain skills as they learn to adapt their teaching methodologies to match the environment.

I have learnt so much both at my placement and my community