Visit to Nepal school shared with students, may bring international conversation
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When Channing Hall Head of School Heather Shepherd visited Nepal’s Sunshine National School this spring, she saw possibilities for international communication between the two schools.
During a three-day home stay with a family in Bhaktapur, about eight miles from the capital city, Kathmandu, she visited the private school, Sunshine National School, where seven family members attend. She took with her pencils and oil and watercolor cards her students had painted for those students that had the artists’ photographs attached.
“I would love to have our school Skype with those students so we can keep the relationship going,” Shepherd said. “We could see what is going on over there and learn about different cultures and see our commonalities.”
Her visit was brief, only a couple hours, with more observation than interaction since it was examination time, she said. Her plan to return to the school was cut short when she experienced illness and returned to the United States.
Even so, Shepherd is able to relate the experience to her students so they can benefit from her experience.
“The school is about 20 years old and has two campuses — one for older students and one for younger students, with a rocky road to travel the block between the two campuses. Everyone there walks. The students are taught in English at the school, so the kids were very excited to practice their English asking me questions,” she said.
Most of the questions asked were her name, where she lives and about Channing Hall. The 300 Sunshine students, like Channing Hall students, wear uniforms and had desks and materials.
There were classrooms for the Nepalese students for each grade level.
“It was interesting to look at their books and see what they were teaching the students. It was mostly reading, writing and learning their subjects in English. The kindergartners had cubbies to keep their projects in, much like we have here,” she said.
Outside on the playground, there was only cement, no grass, Shepherd said. There was a set of metal monkey bars.
“Much of what they played was with a ball — throwing it, playing kickball,” she said.
Although they speak English in school, Hindi still prevailed at home.
“The older children can speak English and the younger ones are learning, but everyone else doesn’t know the language. For the most part, women haven’t been educated in the past. The mom in the family I stayed with doesn’t read nor write, so it’s becoming important to educate females. At the school I was at, it was 50-50, males and females,” she said.
Shepherd also added that the school she visited is considered expensive in Nepal.
“It means that they value education enough to send their kids there to get a good education,” she said.
She learned that most children live with their extended families, similar to the family she visited.
“Each family lived on their own level, but all in the one house,” she said.
The meals included large breakfasts and dinners, with bread and vegetables or apples in between.
“For one breakfast, we had curry potatoes and rice pudding — things to us that may not go together, but are perfectly normal there. They mostly ate Indian food in their kitchen, which consisted of a sink and two burner plates. They shop at little stores and pick up just what they need so they shop more often than we do. They don’t have large stores like we do,” she said.
One of their favorite treats is American chocolate, so Shepherd said she brought some candy bars with her.
Another similarity is technology. Even though the family had an older television, it was never turned on during her visit, Shepherd said.
“They’re all on Facebook — even those who don’t speak English. They communicate through Facebook on their iPhones. Everyone, from ages 15 up, used them all the time just like here. That surprised me,” she said.
It’s through Facebook that she hopes to maintain communication and hopefully, in the fall, engage in conversations between the two schools.
“The older kids were my translators as I don’t know Hindi. It was interesting to learn so much from the history of the temples that are thousands of years old to how they are building another school that can withstand earthquakes,” she said.
Nepal experienced a 7.6 earthquake in 2015 and a 4.4 tremor in February this year.
Until then, Channing Hall had slated a Color Me Kindness Fun Run, where students wrote messages of kindness on prayer flags that were to be hung during the fundraiser. The fun run organizers also planned to have colorful chalk, symbolic of a color festival. The money raised from the May 19 run, with a goal of $30,000, was earmarked to upgrade Channing Hall’s technology and physical education equipment, Shepherd said.