Giving children access to the future in Nepal
BMS World Mission has helped to set up a computer lab that is inspiring students, teachers and a community in rural Nepal. Find out how we’re making this happen and how you can continue to support this exciting work
Technology is always at our fingertips here in the UK – even toddlers these days seem happy playing with smartphones! In schools across the UK, laptops, tablets and computers can be found in abundance. But in rural Nepal, access to technology is hard or impossible to find. According to one recent study, less than 1,500 of the approximately 40,000 government schools in Nepal have any computer facilities. That works out at about one computer for every 500 students! In a world driven by technology, children in Nepal are being left behind.
The Nepali Government is working hard to give more children IT access, and, thanks to your giving, BMS has also done something to help bridge this gap. Recently, we’ve helped set up a computer lab at Shree Janabikash Secondary School in Nepal’s Lamjung District. It’s an exciting achievement, as this lab is one of the first of its kind in the entire district, which is home to around 300 schools. The lab is fully equipped with 20 computers and around 200 students are using it each day. The positive impact is already being felt by many teachers and students within the school, and it has potential to reach even further.
“I’m very happy that we have this new lab,” says Kishor Gurung, a student in grade ten at the school. Kishor says this to his school principal while working in the lab. The principal is beaming.
Kishor is just one of the students who has grown excited about learning thanks to the computer lab. Previously, students were taught computer skills like how to code, but it was all done through a textbook and by memorisation. Hands-on learning was not part of the process, as there was little access to computers in the school.
“Learning IT in school is almost as important as reading and writing,” says BMS mission worker Simon Hall, who works as an ICT teacher trainer in Nepal. “In today’s world it’s used to solve problems and think more creatively and critically. If kids don’t learn computer skills they will be at a disadvantage because it’s such an important life skill.”
Having previously set up a computer lab in a different school in Nepal, Simon played a crucial role in getting this lab running, but it wasn’t easy. “Initially I was doing research and realised this lab was going to be too expensive for the school,” says Simon. “I didn’t know what to do.” He decided to write a proposal to Microsoft and ended up landing a deal where the company would cover half the cost of the lab, making this dream possible. Throughout the process, Simon continued to play a key role as ‘middle man’, ensuring good communication between teachers, administrators and the people who physically set up the lab. But this was never about him, or even about BMS and how your support makes his work possible. It’s about children being helped.
“I’m excited for these students,” says Simon. “You can learn computer skills and know how they work, but without actually trying these skills out, you won’t understand what it means.”
Today the lab is up and running. Students are learning important computer skills and how to create digital resources. It’s also likely that the lab will equip students to solve problems and think more creatively and critically. In some cases, it’s even inspiring students to dream a little bigger.
“My favourite part is when we get to do design work, I love creating logos,” says Kishor. “My dream is to open a computer networking business one day.”
Encouraging and equipping teachers
The lab isn’t only helping students, it’s inspiring teachers too. Prabin Wagle, an ICT teacher at Shree Janabikash Secondary School, is one of them.
Prabin was an ambitious ICT teacher who had been teaching at the school for around eight years when he got frustrated. The five computers the school had were not enough for the students, and the result was that they were hardly being used. He wanted children and teachers to be using the computers, but it just wasn’t happening, so he decided to leave teaching.
But, after the school found out it would be getting a computer lab, the principal knew they needed Prabin back. With the promise of the new computer lab, Prabin was hopeful things could change. “The work that Simon did really inspired me to come back and teach,” says Prabin.
Back at the school, Prabin has already noticed a difference with his students. “The kids are much happier now that we have this computer lab,” says Prabin.
It’s even inspired Prabin to want to help other teachers within Lamjung District. Soon he’ll be running a ten-day training course with 25 teachers. “It’s really great that Prabin is doing this,” says Simon. “It’s so nice to see local teachers being motivated, and so encouraging because he’s Nepali and so he’s got a greater understanding of the culture. It will be great for local teachers to learn from his experience.”
Prabin is thankful that Simon has been so supportive during the process and it’s made an impact on how he views his work. “Simon taught me that if you want change, the change should come from you,” says Prabin.
Beyond the students and teachers, the lab also has the potential to help people within the surrounding community. The school is hoping to open it up to community members outside of school hours. “That would be the ultimate plan,” says Simon. “There are lots of Nepalis abroad and it would be really cool to facilitate people being able to communicate better with their families and also just gain basic computer skills.”
Bridging the technology gap won’t be easy, but Nepalis are motivated to make it happen. “It’s an exciting time to be in Nepal,” says Simon. “Right now, IT education is being taken more seriously. There’s a real push for it. And it’s not just people coming in from other countries saying that they need it, Nepalis are taking the initiative.”
Thank you. You've helped Nepalis be more connected, think creatively and critically and dream a little bigger. You've helped equip them with computer skills that will give them more job opportunities in the future. Things are looking bright, and it's not just the computer screens.
If you want to continue to help BMS World Mission bridge this gap and do even more around the world, you can give to BMS today.
This story originally appeared on the BMS World Mission website and is used with permission.