When Students Teach

Kushal Pokharel, 2013 Teach For Nepal Fellow

Manoj, a tenth grade student, helps his mother transport a sack of cement to fill the road's potholes.

 

Before and after school, many of my students—particularly the girls—are responsible for countless hours of chores. Whether it’s planting crops, fetching buckets of water, or tending to cattle, the breadth of their responsibilities extends far beyond their schoolwork in rural Nepal. For example, Sanju, a student in my tenth grade class, washes dishes at her family’s hotel before and after school. At the same time, my students are incredibly committed to their education. For example, Mandira and Gayatri walk well over an hour to and from school each day. The road is slippery and quite scary, particularly during monsoon season. Fallen branches often obstruct the road, making it more challenging for students. This doesn’t stop them. In fact, they’ve even enrolled in extra morning courses, which begin at 6:30 a.m. Their arduous commutes begin, on foot, before the sun rises.

I wonder what my students eat for breakfast so early before coming to school, especially when they have morning household chores. How do their parents, most of whom work long hours in fields, find the time to prepare meals for them?

 

When I ask them what they think about their lives, they say they want to do more — in school, at home, and in their community.
 

They have many additional responsibilities, yet they are so committed to obtaining a quality education. Sometimes, when I get bogged down from the challenges of teaching in rural Nepal, I see my students are working incredibly hard, with an enormous sense of responsibility in school and at home. I’m in awe of them. Aren’t they teaching us, as educators, to have high hopes and not to lose patience? I believe so. My students’ optimism and persistence have motivated me to work hard to ensure their enduring academic and personal success.

When I ask Sanju about her long term vision, she says she wants to live a simple but meaningful life in which she helps others in her community. She is proud of her community, and she wants to strengthen it. Like Sanju, Mandira, and Gayatri, all my students inspire me. I initially joined Teach For Nepal to try to transform the lives of students in my country but I’m finding that it is I who is being transformed by their optimism, commitment, patience and perseverance. I have as much to learn from my students as I do to teach them.