Help us rebuild schools in Nepal

by The Santi School Project
Help us rebuild schools in Nepal
Help us rebuild schools in Nepal
Help us rebuild schools in Nepal
Help us rebuild schools in Nepal
Help us rebuild schools in Nepal
Help us rebuild schools in Nepal
Help us rebuild schools in Nepal
Help us rebuild schools in Nepal
Sushma loves to play. But one book captivates her
Sushma loves to play. But one book captivates her

Students, teachers and parents absolutely love the three new books that we have published and distributed to our 50 partner schools in Kavre and Nuwakot districts in Nepal.

The books are a key part of our read-aloud program. In our previous report, we detailed the original, culturally appropriate stories written by some of our teachers.

You know you’ve created something good when it’s used so much that schools ask us for extra copies. And that’s exactly what has happened.

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s testimonials from a student and a teacher about what these books mean to them:

Sushma (3rd grader at Jalpa Devi School, Nuwakot) 

“I come to school to play. I would spend the whole day outdoors if the teachers let me. Lately, I have begun to like reading. I like simple and short books like “Kasto Suhayeko” (“Looking Good!”) because the sentences are short and the images are too funny. I don’t have the time or the patience to read long stories.” 

Parvati (Teacher at Nepane School, Nuwakot) 

At our school we have a daily routine of reading “Kati Mehenati Mauri” (“Busy Bees”). There are some beehives in the vicinity, so some students are aware of the lives of bees; they are read aloud to at school and they in turn read aloud to their parents. It’s not a surprise to hear some villagers tending their farms while humming ‘bari maidan ghumera auchin bhun bhun garera, dharke mauri somati’ (the refrain of the poem). 

Thank you for your support. We're busy now finding new stories to bring to life for our communities.

Parvati overhears farmers humming book's refrain
Parvati overhears farmers humming book's refrain
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The cover of Looking Good
The cover of Looking Good

We’ve published our first three children’s books!

This is the culmination of a long process that began nearly two years ago and was prolonged in various ways by the pandemic. But now we’re ecstatic to announce that we have 1,500 books – 500 copies each of the three titles – to distribute to our partner schools.

Our first impression of the books: they look amazing! We were fortunate to work with two extremely talented local artists (and an experienced editor of children’s books in Kathmandu) whose vibrant illustrations bring to life the stories that our teachers created during our training workshops.

We have no doubt that these books will captivate our young readers, both during classroom read aloud sessions guided by teachers and in the free time students enjoy at the reading corners we have provided over the years to their schools.

Here are the three books we’ve published:

Busy Bees
This story was a collaboration among five teachers from two schools in Kavre district where we had installed beehives in 2019, fulfilling a request from the local community.

First Snow
At a separate training workshop focused on using Nepali children’s literature for literacy instruction, a teacher composed a story of her first encounter with snow and how it frightened her.

Looking Good
This is a fun, engaging story celebrating the physical idiosyncrasies of the different members of a family – like a gold tooth, a mole, a luxurious moustache.

Over the past three years, together with our partner organization in Nepal, Kakshyalaya, we have trained 225 teachers with some local stakeholders (principals, administrators and others) involved in a few of the sessions. Our new books will go into their hands over the next month or so, as we travel throughout the rural communities in Nuwakot and Kavre districts to visit our partner schools.

Thank you for supporting our publishing efforts and the rural communities where we work. You make it all possible. We are extremely grateful!

Inside pages from Looking Good
Inside pages from Looking Good
The cover of First Snow
The cover of First Snow
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Teachers tell us what they like about read aloud
Teachers tell us what they like about read aloud

This is an extremely somber and uncertain time in Nepal, as a surge of Covid-19 infections has overwhelmed hospitals and the country's fragile public health system. Our thoughts are with our friends, colleagues and everyone in Nepal as they try their best to outlast the ravages of the pandemic.

Schools have closed once again, and it's possible that they may only be able to open sporadically over the next few years, unless foreign governments step in with supplies of a vaccine.

We do have some good news to share, however. The government recently completed an evaluation of our work, conducted by the Social Welfare Council, which oversees our implementing partner in Nepal. Monitors visited some of our partner schools and interviewed parents, teachers, students, administrators and local representatives to determine the impact of our read-aloud program and accompanying teacher training activities. The monitors also reviewed our project finances.

Here are some key findings of the report:

  • Roughly 3,000 students, teachers and parents benefited from our read-aloud program.
  • 84% of students reported that they enjoyed reading stories.
  • 88% of teachers believed that the cognitive capabilities of their students had improved.
  • 90% of local leaders believed that the project improved the quality of education in schools within their communities. They also reported that they had seen an increase in the number of children interested in reading.
  • 100% of school administrators attested that the project had improved the teaching and learning environment of their schools.
  • 100% of parents agreed that the project had improved the quality of education, benefited their communities and promoted schooling within the communities. In 2018, when we began the first series of projects, we had hoped to increase the net enrollment in schools where it had been been diminishing over the last few years. This data doesn’t prove that enrollment has increased, but it does show that parents are willing to send their daughters, who are often saddled with household chores, to school.
  • We've increased awareness of reading aloud in schools and in communities. Children are taking books home and reading aloud to their parents.
  • Our partner schools are some of the poorest in the areas where we work, in Kavre and Nuwakot districts, in central Nepal. These are rural communities located in hard to reach areas often overlooked by charity groups and foreign nongovernmental organizations like ours. The report noted that we specifically chose to help these schools because they have limited resources (many of them did not have a library before joining our program) and student test scores were among the lowest in the district.

We have great admiration for the resilience of our staff, the rural communities where we work and all of the people of Nepal as they cope with this latest surge of the coronavirus. We remain grateful for the support of donors like you, who make our work possible. Thank you!

 

 

A new classroom library at a school in Nuwakot
A new classroom library at a school in Nuwakot
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While schools are shut during the pandemic, we've started to publish our own quality books for kids to read at home.

Our goal is to support local Nepali authors and artists (including our own teachers!) to write, illustrate and publish original children's books in Nepali with culturally appropriate Nepali settings and characters. Our first three titles will be published in early 2021.

Our parter in Nepal, Kakshyalaya, has been distributing books to schools in the Kathmandu Valley that participate in our read-aloud training program. Lately, it has been hard pressed to find an adequate number of quality children's books.

We want to meet that need and demonstrate to publishers in Nepal that a conscientious team of writers, illustrators, editors and others can produce rewarding and engaging experiences for young readers. Kakshyalaya hopes to change the status quo in the local publishing industry that often views books as a vehicle to teach morals to children.

One of our books is about honey bees and how industrious they are. The text describes the various chores of the worker bees and repeats a refrain of “Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee.”

Here are some sample stanzas from the book:

 

Roaming meadows and gardens, here they come buzzing
Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee.
Melting the wax, they build those hexagonal chambers
Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee
Flapping their wings, they fix the temperature of the hive
Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee
Searching for honey in the garden, they help pollinate many different plants
Oh wow! That's the hardworking honeybee

Thank you for your support during this unusual and trying year!

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Informal sessions likely will last until October.
Informal sessions likely will last until October.

In Nepal, like nearly everywhere else in the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted daily life at home, at work and especially at school. To keep our children engaged in reading while classes are cancelled indefinitely, we started a make home deliveries of children's books.

The book drive is part of our teacher training program that emphasizes reading aloud to students. At the request of local officials, we've also set up 50 hand-washing stations, supplied with 1,000 bars of soap, 500 hand sanitizers and more than 1,000 masks, to promote good hygiene.

Overall, the book drive serves 20 communities and 400 children from 14 schools in Nuwakot district whose teachers have participated in our training program. That's important, because the teachers now understand the value of reading aloud, an activity that is not otherwise a part of a typical classroom routine in government schools that stress teaching to national exams.

Before receiving our training, most teachers perceive reading aloud as unnecessary. Quality children's books, with a compelling story and engaging illustrations, are rare in Nepal, which is why we have begun to produce our own.

Now that schools in Nepal are shut indefinitely, likely until late fall, about 60 teachers have agreed to lead small groups of six or seven students in informal daily read-aloud sessions in the villages where they live.

Parents around the world have all learned the same lesson after the last several months of staying home: the value of teachers and the social and emotional opportunities school provides children. American kids are passing the time with some combination of the Internet, video games, books and other hobbies. The vast majority of children we serve in Nepal do not have books at home, much less Disney Plus or Netflix. There is no distance learning in the way that we think of it in the West.

Thank you for your support during this unprecedented time around the world. As a donor, you can feel confident that together we are making a real, positive impact for children in rural areas of the Kathmandu Valley.

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Organization Information

The Santi School Project

Location: Ellicott City, MD - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @santischool
Project Leader:
Christopher Heun
Founder
Portland, OR United States
$4,202 raised of $25,000 goal
 
57 donations
$20,798 to go
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