By Aashish Mishra Kathmandu, Jan. 9: It is a tale repeated all across the country that educated young people leave villages to pursue opportunities in cities or destinations abroad. But how often do we hear of youths willingly leaving lucrative opportunities in the cities to work in the rural areas? Even rarer is to see fresh university graduates choose to put their “professional” fields on hold and instead choose to focus on teaching. These four people are a few of those rare persons.
Motivated by a sense of service and the desire to make a difference, The Rising Nepal profiles Nimmi Basnet, Rajat Kumar Das, Ramhari Sapkota and Bikal Baral – four individuals who chose to forego the comfort of city life and stable jobs for a couple of years and dedicate themselves to the education of public-school students of rural Nepal.
‘Students need passionate teachers’
Nimmi Basnet, 25
Teaches English at Nawalpur Secondary School, Indrawati Rural Municipality–4, Sindhupalchowk Originally from Butwal, Nimmi, a graduate of physical therapy from the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Science, India, had many things – a prestigious degree, a well-paying job and an enviable professional network. However, she did not have the one thing she wanted most – a sense of fulfilment. She wanted to use it to make a difference in the community and test her values. That is why she decided to join Teach for Nepal (TFN) as a fellow in 2020 and came to Sindhupalchowk.
“It is a district very close to the capital Kathmandu, yet it is very remote,” she said. “The quality of education is also not as good as it ought to be.” Nimmi found this unacceptable and for the last two years has devoted herself to helping her students excel in English. And her students have responded well to her methods. They, along with their guardians, have Nimmi to extend her stay in Sindhupalchowk beyond the two years mandated by her TFN fellowship.
But whether or not she stays in Sindhupalchowk, Nimmi will stay in the classroom. Teaching is her calling, she has discovered, along with the fact that students learn best when they have teachers passionate about their jobs.
‘I got to know my country’
Rajat Kumar Das, 26
Teaches Science at Shree Bidhyadhishwari Secondary School, Bagmati Rural Municipality–6, Lalitpur For most of his life, Rajat yearned for an “organic exposure” to the country. Born and raised in Biratnagar, he always felt that there was more to Nepal that he needed to learn and understand. This is why after completing his bachelors in pharmacy from Sam Higginbottom University, Allahabad, India, he started looking for options.
“I wanted an opportunity to explore,” he said. So, he joined TFN two years ago and specifically requested them to send him to a rural area in the hilly part of the country because “that’s where I could get the authentic exposure I craved.”
And Rajat has not looked back since. “I feel that I am part of this place,” he said, speaking of Bagmati Rural Municipality, “And this place is part of me.” As a graduate of pharmacy, there were quite a few jobs waiting for him both in India and Nepal. But this did not entice him. Asked why, he replied, “A job would only have benefitted me but teaching has allowed me to be of service to others as well.”
‘People called me crazy’
Ramhari Sapkota, 24
Teaches Science at Mahendradev Secondary School, Marsyangdi Rural Municipality–7, Lamjung Ramhari’s friends flat out called him crazy for wishing to pursue teaching. He graduated in public health from National Open College, Pokhara University and everyone naturally expected him to develop a career in the field. His parents hoped he would settle down and start earning. His mates thought he would go abroad for further studies.
“But I ended up hurting all of them by not only choosing to deviate from my core field but do so in a remote area of the country for an amount of money considered unworthy of someone of my qualification,” he reflected on his choice.
So then why; why go against friends and family to join the 2020 TFN fellowship? Because Ramhari knew the value of a good teacher. “I studied in a government school till grade 10,” the native of Tripurasundari, Kavre, said. “I know the situation there and the problems the students face. So, I wanted to do something, even if in a small way, to help improve things.”
It was not easy though. Immediately after Ramhari reached Marsyangdi, the government imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. This put him in a challenging spot of having to remotely teach pupils who did not have access to the internet or smartphones. But he did his best and the students and parents are happy with his work, he said.
“The children have talent; they have abilities and they have the potential to excel. They just need guidance, which, I have tried to provide.” The past two years have made Ramhari realise that he needs to support Nepal’s public education. That is why he says that he will continue to work in this field, either as a teacher or in some other capacity.
‘We have a duty to be part of the solution’
Bikal Baral, 27
Teaches Mathematics at Saraswati Secondary School, Tulsipur Sub-Metropolitan City–3, Dang After graduating as a civil engineer from the premier engineering school of the country, the Institute of Engineering (IoE) of Tribhuvan University, Bikal naturally sought to forge a career in civil engineering. But, like Nimmi, he was not satisfied. So, he jumped over to the field of software development. But he still felt a lack of purpose.
“I wanted to explore horizons beyond the narrow confines of a cubicle and an office,” he said. “And I wanted to utilise my knowledge to make a difference in people’s lives.” This difference, he felt, he could make by becoming a teacher. In his student years, Bikal used to teach tuition classes which had made him realise that our curriculum taught pupils to rote, not learn. “Our system makes students study but does not enable them to learn,” he said.
This is what this permanent resident of Pokhara wanted to change and thus, through TFN, moved to Dang in 2020, leaving behind a stable job and a monthly salary for social service. “As educated youths, we not only have the right to highlight the country’s problems but also the duty to be part of the solution,” he said. “I felt I could do my bit by leaving the city and I could not be more satisfied.”
Nimmi, Rajat, Ramhari and Bikal are all TFN fellows of the year 2020. All four expressed great happiness about moving to rural areas and all plan to continue in the teaching field beyond their fellowship which ends this year in 2022.