Nepalis United: Aftermath of Earthquakes in Nepal

I originally wrote this for Republica.
Life devastated by April 25 great earthquake was crawling back to normalcy when, all of a sudden, another powerful earthquake (aftershock?) jolted the nation on May 12, on the 18th day after the first quake. It has terrorized people. However, unity among Nepalis has provided healing touch to the affected people.I had two different experiences in the last two deadly earthquakes: one in my living room and another at workplace, one escaping from the ground floor of three-storied building and another from the second floor of seven-storied building. Though both magnitude and duration of the second earthquake (6.8) was less compared to the first one (7.8), I felt more scared in the second.

First, I thought it was an aftershock and decided to stay inside. But the intensity got noticeably higher. Then I managed to escape from the tall building that had started to swing and later developed cracks as well.Thank God, both the powerful earthquakes occurred during daytime. Had they occurred during the night, or on workdays, human casualty, especially school and college students and structural damages would have been immense. Schools in the affected districts were scheduled to resume from May 17, as per government’s decision.

So far the death toll from May 12 quake with epicenter in Sunakhani of Dolakha has crossed 100, while the numbers of missing and injured are around 50 and 2,800 respectively. Likewise, the toll from the first quake with epicenter at Barpak in Gorkha is over 8,000 and twice many are injured, according to Nepal Police. Of 14 affected districts, Sindhupalchowk is the hardest hit. Over 3,000 people have been killed there.

All Nepalis, both in and out of the country, have stood by the victims in these difficult times. They have lent their helping hands with what they can. Although Nepalis had earlier been divided along political, gender, ethnicity and geographical lines, they are united now. Such a bonding was not possible in any other way.

Recently, I came across an educated person in a small gathering. He told me that if the same catastrophe had taken place in Tarai, people there would have become more frantic than the people in the hills. I differed because I am from Tarai. I believe disaster brings equal trouble to all the people, regardless of their regional, ethnic and geographical orientations.

People of Tarai have felt the pain of people of the hills. Individuals and political parties based in Tarai have collected relief supplies. They have rushed with trucks loaded with relief materials including rice and bamboo, and distributed them to affected people. This is an example of true bonding among Nepalis during the difficult hours. All we need now is mutual trust, and appreciate each other’s efforts.

We know that Nepalis from affected areas are in dire straits. Some might want to take advantage of this situation. For instance, it was discovered that scores of Bibles were being sent along with relief material to convert victims. Likewise, incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse from humanitarian aid workers are also considered likely, in exchange of relief support.

It is high time we Nepalis developed a strong bonding and extended all possible support to affected communities. This way we will not only be able to collect relief supplies but also to reach out to the needy.

Advertisements

Quake victims in Pokhara want to return home

I translated this Nepali story into English for Republica (original link)
Maya Gurung
Maya Gurung, one of quake victims from Gorkha, shelters in Pokhara
By Keshav Sharan Lamichhane
POKHARA, May 20: The displaced locals of Gorkha, who have been taking shelter in Pokhara, have expressed their wish to return home, saying they no longer want to stay in temporary shelters.
Maya Gurung, who had been forced to move to Pokhara after her 8-month-old son, Yuman, fell sick while living in a tent in the district, said she wants to return home. Her son was admitted at Western Regional Hospital in Pokhara. She has now been taking shelter at Nayabazaar of Pokhara for the last two weeks.Tamu Dhi, an organization working for the welfare of Gurung community, has provided shelter to Maya Gurung, an earthquake victim from Gorkha.”Taking shelter here is easy as many people come here to support us,” said Maya.

Many other displaced have been taking shelter there. Even their children have been provided with food and playing materials, while elderly can watch TV. Special arrangement has been made for new mothers and newborns.
However, the quake victims taking shelter in Pokhara are now willing to return.”For how long should we depend on others,” said Suman Gurung, who hails from Gunda village in Gorkha. “We are more concerned about children and the elderly,” he added.Amid a function organized on on Tuesday, Suman Gurung shared with Dinesh Thapaliya, regional administrator of Tamu Dhi, that the government should provide free transport services for them to return to their villages from Pokhara.

Following the first earthquake, 300 affected people of Gorkha district, including 150 jantatis, are taking shelter in Pokhara, according to Saraswati Gurung, a member of Tamu Dhi.

Feature Story: Hollywood actor Jaswant Shrestha raises fund for Nepali earthquake victims

I originally wrote this for Republica.
 Jaswant_News
KATHMANDU, May 7: Once as a young actor and director of some Nepali music videos and award-winning documentaries, Jaswant Dev Shrestha, whose passion has led him to work in the Hollywood industry, is now on a fundraising drive to help earthquake victims in Nepal.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake of April 25 and aftershocks has claimed around 8,000 lives and left tens of thousands others displaced in a dozen districts, which the government has declared as crisis zone in the aftermath of disaster.
To materialize his passion to work in Hollywood, Shrestha is now living in Los Angeles but his affection for his motherland and its people made him swarm in all his relief assistance to the quake victims.
From a country which is very far from Nepal, his efforts in fundraising, coordination and finally distribution to the affected people back home shows his incredible works, which is only possible by working round the clock.
Shrestha’s team in Nepal, which he mentions on his Facebook page as ‘#TeamJaswant’ has reached out with immediate relief materials to assist the victims from parts of all the districts affected by the earthquake.
Shrestha told Republica that his team from Pokhara, among the very few, distributed immediate relief materials to the earthquake victims in Laprak and Barpak of Gorkha District. The latter was the epicenter of the first earthquake. Thereafter, Indian Air Force helicopters had landed there with government relief assistance.
So far, he has managed to provide with immediate relief materials worth US$10,000 to the victims in various affected areas through his team, according to Shrestha.
“Jaswant is a real superhero to help the quake victims in need,” American Indian Sonia Bhalla writes on his Facebook page.
The lady working in Hollywood is one of them supporting his campaign.
When asked why he could not contribute his donation to the Prime Minister’s relief fund, Shrestha said, “Government procedure may delay immediate relief support to those in need, so we decided to rush to the remote parts of affected areas first.”He added that the government is doing wonderful jobs to respond to the victims. “Credits go to the Nepali security forces, especially Nepal Army, Nepal Police and foreign rescue teams and international communities,” he said. Shrestha’s volunteers in different states of America and back in Nepal are working day and night to help, collect and distribute relief supplies to the victims. He has dedicated teams for Kathmandu, Pokhara, Gorkha, Dhading, Kavrepalanchok and Nuwakot right now. Following the relief support, Jaswant also plans to spend the funds raised through his campaigns in rehabilitation.
“I’m very grateful to generous donors, volunteers and my teammates for encouraging the initiatives taken in the aftermath of the disasters,” he said. “Together, we can rebuild the nation and make a difference in the lives of victims.”
Jaswant has bagged the best actor in a leading role for his performance in his film The Treason. The film has also won two Audience awards in the New York Independent Film Festival and Blissfest. He has also appeared in a Facebook commercial, a few American TV series pilots and has also voiced Nepali and Indian characters in the Disney Animated movie The Planes.
To contribute to Jaswant’s appeal for humanitarian aid for earthquake victims in Nepal, visit the website of Earthquake Relief Fund for Nepal http://www.eqrfnepal.com.

Devastating Earthquake of April 25: Desperate times

I originally wrote this for Republica.

All of a sudden, all electronic gadgets in my room were automatically turned off Saturday noon. I had been working on my laptop at the time. At that inauspicious time when the clock showed 11:56, my bed started to shakeand the TV set almost jumped at me.

I rushed to the door and stood between the pillars from where I could see and hear other people in my neighborhood yelling and running helter-skelter. I shouted at them not to run but stay inside safely till things were settled. Nobody listened to me, and I was scared.The earthquake continued for two minutes, and nobody was inside. I had never experienced continuous tremors and it made me lose hope. I was at wit’s end.

I came out in the open after it stopped. Hundreds of people had already gathered outside. I saw parts of some buildings and boundary walls nearby collapse. I tried to contact my family, friends and colleagues, but in vain. I browsed the net,which was luckily available. I tweeted about the earthquake and also posted a status on Facebook.

Immediately after the first quake, no Nepali media covered the news, except Radio Nepal. But I could read Facebook posts and tweets about earthquake from different parts of the country. Though there were reports about damage and loss of properties and lives in Kathmandu alone, at first,nationwide reports soon followed.

Through social media, I could learn that Saturday’s devastating earthquake measured 7.9 in the Richter scale with its epicenter was in Gorkha district. Thereafter, international media was not only quick but also active in reporting the incident. Nepali media became active only after news spread through international media.

A series of aftershocks followed. According to National Seismological Centre, over a hundred tremors measuring more than four Richter scale were felt in different parts of the country at different times.

Human casualties and loss of properties caused by the devastating earthquake and its aftershocks across the country cannot be figured out now. Four days after the disaster, the Home Ministry has so far recorded over 5,000deaths,and twice the number of injured. Based on human casualties, Kathmandu valley and Sindhupalchowk district havebeen the hardest hit.

Likewise, Dharahara and Basantpur Durbar Square, among other historical and cultural heritages of Kathmandu valley, were turned into rubble after the earthquake.

Immediate rescue was limited to the capital for the first two days. Foreign countries, however, were quick to send in their rescue teams. With their help, rescue works started outside the capital after the third day.

Despite extreme challenges, Nepal Army has been coordinating search and rescue operations teams from India, Sri Lanka, China, Turkey, Netherlands, Poland, Germany, France, Israel, Malaysia, Britain and Japan in various affected areas. They have been doing a wonderful job to save people. Some victims were rescued alive from the rubble.

Had foreign rescue teams not reached the country in time, rescue would have hit a snag. Nepali authorities alone could not carry out operations. In fact Home Minister BamdevGautamhas accepted that the country was underprepared for such a massive disaster. Even locals from remote areas are complaining about delays in rescue and response. The rescue and relief distribution to the affected locals are underway.

Continuous tremors after the first quake haveinstilled fear in people that they hesitate to enter their homes even after the government has appealed them to do so. They have been compelled to live in tents in open spaces. Though some people in Kathmandu whose houses are not damaged have returned home starting yesterday, many are still spending sleepless nights in temporary camps. Rainfall has added to the woe of displaced locals.

Fearing aftershocks and consequences of food and water shortage, thousands of people have already fled the capital and returned to their villages; some are on the way; and others are planning their journey back home. Health and disaster experts warn of water-borne diseases and other infectious diseases in the absence of pure drinking water and hygienic food.

Following the recent disaster, governments and NGOs from other countries have intensified their help. Effective and timely distribution of relief materials in remote areas is a big concern.

Mismanagement in distributing donations from foreign governments has exposed certain people’s vested interests and lack of coordinated strategies. Amid such a situation, NGOs play a crucial role in distributing relief materials without bias.

It is high time for both aid agencies and government to strictly monitor use of funds and relief materials meant for earthquake victims. We should all pitch in for the benefit of those in need.

The author is associated with Republica

Challenges aplenty in Nepal’s urbanization

We (I & Ashok Dahal) wrote this based on the talk with KISHORE THAPA. 

064f9a84726b5edee106d39bd3062964_L

There are 191 municipalities in the country and if we assume all the inhabitants of municipal areas as part of urban population, 38 percent of our total population lives in urban centers. But all those living in municipalities are not urban population. Physical infrastructure does not make an area urban, the occupation and economic activities of people do. The majority of population in urban areas are engaged in non-agricultural sector; the exactly opposite is true for rural areas.

In our context, all municipal areas are not urban and all urban centers are not municipalities. Our urban centers are concentrated along east-west highway and north-south road sections. If we look at the map of our country almost 90 percent of our urban areas are in central Tarai and mid-hills.

Urbanization, historically, is a result of industrialization. Agriculture workers switched to industrial activities and gradually urbanization caught momentum around the world. But ours is a different story. Central government offices, regional and district headquarters and bodies of trade are all in urban centers. Trade with India and China also helped in development of urban cities. Migration to urban centers from rural areas in search of better education, jobs and health services further increased urban population.
Of late, remittance has driven urbanization but not in a sustainable way. Families of migrant youths are shifting to urban areas for better education. Designation of Kathmandu valley as capital city and economic and administrative headquarters also drew hordes of people to sprawling urban centers. Likewise, hordes of people have moved to Kathmandu after each political change. The political movement of 1990 and 2006 saw such migration. This happened due to centralized political system. As a result, today, the valley’s population has swelled to about 3.5 million.
Rapid and unplanned urbanization of the valley is not sustainable as there is lack of even basic infrastructure. Chaotic urbanization only brings anger and dissatisfaction to its people. Urban poverty is on rise and more health hazards are reported. To make matters worse, this type of city can challenge governance and also political system, again as seen in Kathmandu. Another cause of urbanization could be government’s failure to address its people’s aspirations.
First of all, Kathmandu-centric development must change. Political power and administrative authority of the capital city should be decentralized and harmonized with development. Essential services should go to nearby urban centers. Decentralization leads to urbanization not just of the capital city. For example, not all people in India go to New Dehli. Necessary services are equally available in other cities and towns in each province.
Our government seems to be focused on infrastructure development. Infrastructure is also necessary for managed urbanization because road, water supply and electricity, among other things, must be upgraded to turn rural cities into urban hubs. Government has started urban development projects at various cities. Biratnagar, Birjung, Butwal, Banepa, Dhulikhel and Panauti have been chosen for urban environment improvement program. Sewerage and drainage, soli-based management, water supply, sanitation and road improvements are the focus for development of these cities.
Another one is integrated urban development, which is implemented in Dharan, Janakpur, Bhairawa and Nepaljung. This project also focused on soli based management, water supply and sanitation, sewerage and drainage, among other things.
We have primary, secondary and tertiary cities. Those cities having more than 100,000 inhabitants could be taken as secondary cities and others with less people can be considered tertiary cities. In this cities, urban governance and development project (UGDP) has been launched. This project targets large municipalities which could not properly use budget. It helps such cities with governance and development, as well as enhancing their capacities for expenditure.
There are other greater development projects in some areas, but such projects do not tally with urban development planning. These are limited to political slogans like relocating the capital to Chitwan.
Urban development is investment, which is recovered by municipalities and other government agencies through various future taxes.
Our laws have certain criteria for urban development but people’s occupation in a particular area is a foundation of a city. There would be various things that characterize a city: trade, business, services, industry and many more.There are two different schools of thoughts on urbanization, either infrastructure should be prepared at first or it should be managed in the process of urbanization. But as an urban planner would say, urban city should be declared first and then infrastructure developed.
Except Kathmandu valley, other major cities are well managed. If you go to Pokhara, it is one of the most planned cities in the country. Thus planning and development are different things. Planning is preparing a sketch; development is investment for production of goods and services to generate employment for economic growth.Though a number of cities were planned and developed during Panchayat era, we failed to develop infrastructure, industry and business. As a result such cities failed to develop. For instance, Dipayal, despite being a regional center, failed to grow as a city.

Again, the concept of urban planning and infrastructure development does not determine people’s settlement and population. If it did, Kathmandu would not be so overcrowded. Behind this are political and economic reasons. The people, who were once dwellers of Birendranagar, are currently living in Kathmandu. Most importantly, growth and development of urban area is linked to economic activities; the more economic activities, the more the growth and development.
The global trend shows development of urban areas is based on industrialization. However, it is not the case in Nepal. Here, urban areas have not been developed as expected due to limited development of industrial sector. Where there are industries, families of workers migrate to these areas and get involved in different economic activities.
Urbanization based on industrialization is more sustainable than urbanization based on tertiary (service) sector. Let us compare a factory with a hotel. The factory can generate more employment opportunities than a hotel. The factory that generates more revenues requires involvement of many people for manufacturing, transportation, storage and marketing. Unlike industries, service sector is based on external factors. Changes in external factors affect service sector as well. This is evident in the case of tourism in Pokhara. Whenever there is protest by agitating groups, tourism comes to a grinding halt due to closure of hotels and transportation services. This leads to unemployment of those involved in tourism.

Land planning and urbanization
Land use planning is an important aspect of urbanization. This refers to specific use of land, according to specific requirement such as commercial area, housing, grocery, among others. For instance, the land designated for residential areas should not have industries; otherwise, it will negatively impact lives of local residents.
There are two types of land use planning: compatible and incompatible. Conversion of land is applicable to compatible land only, but the use of incompatible land is prohibited besides for the specified purpose. Unfortunately, urbanization based on land use planning has not been enforced in Nepali context. The land of Jorpati, which was earlier used for carpet industry, is being used for school these days. It is against the concept of land-use planning.
There is no proper mechanism to incorporate land use and monitor its execution in our context. Had such mechanism existed, urban areas should not only have been well-managed, but local government authorities especially municipalities could generate revenues as well.
This does not mean there are no plans and policies for managing urban areas. But they are seldom implemented.
Recently, the government has adopted a liberal policy in land price determination. It fixes the price of land as per prevailing costs.

Satellite cities
Of late, concept of satellite cities is often heard. The concept generally refers to smaller towns and cities around the primary city. For example, Dhulikhel or Banepa can be a satellite city of Kathmandu. Usually, satellite cities are built around primary city either by combining two cities or building a new city in between. In case of Delhi, Noida and Gudgaun are satellite cities.
Without specific federal model, urban planning in federal structure cannot be predicted. Though the government and political parties have been discussing federalism for the last decade, unfortunately, they have not been able to come up with proper federal framework through consensus. Urban experts cannot help in this.
Urban areas are usually determined, not only based on economic factors, but accessibility because not only have to visit such areas for economic purposes but also for administrative works.
Thapa is former secretary, Ministry of Urban Development

Towards Multilingual Education in Nepal

Reflections on MLE Conference 2013

Praveen Kumar Yadav

We not only use language for daily communication; we also use language to express our identities and cultures and to represent our lifestyles and communities. So, as we all know, the loss of language is loss of both culture and identity of the community speaking the language. Because communities that lose their languages–and thereby their culture, identity, and pride–also lose their status and confidence in society, the process of language loss often leads to broader and adverse social consequences such as marginalization, poverty and poor health, social evils such as drug abuse, and so on. Hence, it is important to preserve languages in the world, especially the languages of the minority groups.

Those who are ignorant about the value of language diversity tend to believe that communities that adopt a more dominant/mainstream language “gain” new power and opportunity; they even go to the extent of arguing that linguistic minorities shed the burden of multiple languages when they leave behind their local languages. The truth about multilingualism, however, makes such understanding absurd. Language is the key to engagement and therefore to sustainable development. The World Bank Research Report titled “Assessing Aid: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why” (1998) showed that development initiatives that sought beneficiaries’ involvement achieved 68 percent success, while those that did not achieved a success rate of just 10 percent. Engaging with the beneficiaries needs the use of their local languages. Such a linguistic and cultural immersion with the target communities contributes to establish two-way communication for people’s meaningful participation and to adopt bottom up approaches in order to achieve sustainable results. Trying to supplant local languages with outside language (whether that is done for efficiency or in the name of “empowering” local communities) is like trying to make one’s neighborhood greener by cutting down existing trees and planting new ones–or worse.

Language is the key to inclusion and inclusion is a must for democracy. For instance, Nepal being a multiethnic and multilingual country will become a true democratic nation when it fully overcomes more than 250 years legacy of linguistic and cultural discrimination against indigenous and minority groups. It is only possible when children of minority groups are provided with the access to education in their mother tongues. Promoting multilingual education in the country–where minority language communities can build upon their local linguistic, cultural, and knowledge resources even as they learn new languages–is a roadmap for true democracy.

In particular, the promotion of local languages is the key to effective education. Education is a basic human right in international law, widely accepted by governments throughout the world, and language is a medium of instruction as well as a subject matter to achieve the basic human right of expression and self-realization.

MLE Conference in Bangkok

Insights like the above brought together hundreds of educators, linguists, government and civil society delegates and development workers from the Asia Pacific region and beyond at the fourth international conference on language and education recently convened by the consortium of organizations ‘Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE WG)’ in Bangkok, Thailand from Nov 6 to 8, 2013.

Representing a development activist and educationist from Nepal interested in MLE, I attended the conference on the theme ‘Multilingual Education for All in Asia and the Pacific: Policies, Practices and Processes’. The theme was very relevant as it provided a common platform to adopt a common understanding of MLE and its importance in Asian context. This conference did showcase promising practices so as to increase understanding of the importance of expanding access to effective MLE and strengthen the momentum for this issue in the AsiaPacific region. The event did not only determined the factors that enable effective, efficient and sustainable MLE by sharing challenges and lessons learned from current MLE practice but also identified recent policy developments in the Asia-Pacific region. The researches and papers presented in the conference revealed that the role of MLE network and collaboration with the governments, non-government organizations, universities and language association played a significant role in making the government formulate and revise education policies in respective countries and putting the MLE practice into action at schools.

Towards Multilingual Education in Nepal

The research studies and papers on policies and practices towards multilingual education in Nepal occupied a substantial space in the conference. Altogether eight different research studies and papers were presented by Nepalese MLE practitioners, academician and NGO activists. Director General Dr. Lava D. Awasthi from Department of Education, Nepal and profound linguist Prof. Dr. Yogendra Prasad Yadava from Tribhuvan University, Nepal talked on multilingual education in terms of policy manifestations and pedagogical practices in Nepal and MLE policies and practices in Nepal as an appraisal respectively. Both the papers showed the variations, challenges and gaps in MLE practices introduced by Government of Nepal as well as national and international agencies in the country.

Even though Nepal is a multilingual and multiethnic country with 123 languages and more than 103 ethnic communities, children in most ethnolinguistic communities are deprived of basic education in their respective mother tongues. Teaching in unfamiliar languages has hindered cognitive development in the children. Language not only helps promote equality and empowers people but also is a key factor for the social inclusion in ethno-linguistic communities. MTB-MLE is the most important mechanism for achieving the goal of education for all among minority communities. However, the policy adopted by the government is not conducive for such a purpose. Curriculum and textbooks as well as reading materials are not compatible to the socio-cultural setting of the communities. Making these arguments in her paper, Dr. Ambika Regmi from Tribhuvan Universityconcluded her sharing claiming that only appropriate strategies can access to MTB-MLE be guaranteed in all ethno-linguistic communities of Nepal.

Reviewing the education policies addressing minority language use in basic education in Nepal,Pushker Kadel, director of Language Development Centre, an NGO shared the impact on the community, students and teachers of pilot MLE programs initiated by Department of Education in eight languages and MLE projects initiated by I/NGOs. Blending his own experience of MLE initiatives taken by local NGOs and the reported outcomes of the existing MLE projects, kadel made recommendations for effective MLE practices in Nepal.

MLE Practice: Case of Rajbanshi

Pamar Rajbansi from Nepali National Languages Preservation Institute

(NNLPI) an NGO and Kimiko Abe from Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) Nepal presented a case study of a multilingual education (MLE) program implemented in the Rajbanshi speaking areas of Jhapa and Morang in southeast Nepal. This case study showed how a quality MLE program can provide efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability of education for students who speak non-dominant languages. The case study also illustrated that high quality program can persuade local governments of the value of providing education in the students’ strongest language, creating a sustainable policy and funding environment for MLE program. The three key factors that made the Rajbanshi program successful included community involvement as implementers of the program, child-friendly teaching methods and environment and capacity building and professional development support to the teachers.

Similarly, undertaking another case study of a Rajbanshi medium school in Jhapa of eastern Nepal,Surya Prasad Yadav from Tribhuvan University Nepal shared MLE practices in Nepal through his paper. The findings of his studies showed that children from Rajbanshi-medium school are more motivated towards education and are more regular in class attendance. Owing to the use of the mother tongue, the rate of their dropouts has decreased and there has been a reduction in the number of out-of-school children. Finally, he discussed the ways to address the challenges of MLE practices in that case and further claimed that such a case could be replica for other similar schools in the country.

MLE: A Case of Rana Tharu

The Rana Tharu language spoken by Rana Tharu community, indigenous inhabitants of Kailali and Kanchanpur districts from far western Nepal, is gradually being lost due to dominant language Nepali, which is only medium of instruction used in schools and literacy class. Children from such community face difficulties in education due to Nepali and English being the medium of government and private schools respectively.  Literary rate of the community is lower than that of Nepali-speaking communities. Presenting the above linguistic contexts, Prithivi Chaudhary fromTransformation Nepal, an NGO shared another case of MLE practice from Rana Tharu Community, which showed a perspective on language development for the sustainable use of Rana Tharu in schools and literacy classes. The findings carried out from a linguistic survey utilizing participatory tools, informal interviews and observations conducted in Kailali and Kanchanpur in 2012 show that Rana Tharu community lacks access to education, particularly in the mother tongue and lags far behind other Nepali communities in awareness, development and technology.

MLE for Adult Literacy in Nepal: A Case of Lhomi

Literacy programs in rural Nepal are quite common, but practitioners often experience low literacy rates among these rural communities. One difficulty related to literacy programs in Nepal is that many people do not speak Nepali as their first language, but literacy programs are required to teach literacy in Nepali. However, the joint presentation by Yee-may Chan fromSIL Nepal andChhejap Bhote fromNepal Lhomi Society (NELHOS), an NGO strongly argued that literacy programs are allowed to teach literacy in another language, as long as literacy in Nepali is included at some point. Their paper explained how the Lhomi Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) Adult Literacy program applied principles from MLE programs designed for children to literacy programs for adults. For instance, culturally appropriate mother tongue teaching materials relevant to the participants’ daily lives were created and used; teaching materials used in the classrooms moved from simple to complicated, from known to unknown; the participants’ mother tongue was the medium of instruction. The experience of the program showed that participants mastered basic literacy, numeracy skills, and simple mathematics within five months. Their experience further showed that after participants learned to read in Lhomi, they quickly learned to read Nepali (which uses a similar writing system). Some participants went even further, learning English, which uses a different writing system. The Lhomi program has demonstrated that best practices of language acquisition for children can be relevant for teaching adults as well, a finding that makes the local community, funding partners, and government authorities satisfied.

Alternative models of MTB-MLE for multilingual classrooms in Nepal

The language composition of the local communities in Nepal shows that most of the schools are linguistically diverse, with the presence of two or more languages. And, the mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) program with a single mother tongue as medium of instruction fails to ensure equal access to quality education and linguistic rights for all students. Effective implementation of a MTB-MLE program depends on the appropriateness of the model in each school environment. Some innovative strategies have emerged in the multilingual classrooms from the continuous interaction between the principles of MTB-MLE and classroom language situations during the initial phase of program implementation. These strategies shared by Laxman Ghimire from Tribhuvan University, Nepal include development of multilingual textbooks, preparing multilingual teachers and allocation of school hours for each language in the classroom. His sharing added another insight that some other strategies were employed informally, such as policy negotiation and reformulation in the local context. Although these strategies have been emerged in the local context, it can be crucial for the development of an appropriate model of MTB-MLE in the linguistic and sociolinguistic context of Nepal.

Conclusion

Education acquired through mother tongue alongside other languages, which is termed as multilingual education (MLE), is stable, that it greatly bolsters children’s cognitive development, and that it prepares them to face the challenges of real life through education in much more effective ways.  The practice of MLE has shown that it is very useful for addressing global educational challenges like low participation and high dropout rates. The studies have already shown that use of mother tongue has powerful pedagogical and social justifications. Recognizing the profound importance of language for education and development, British Council has recently changed its position to English language teaching with a multilingual framework.

Nepal, where about ten dozen languages are spoken as mother tongue can serve both as opportunities, and by virtue of it being a developing nation with limited resources and sticky political problems, as challenges for the implementation of MLE. Despite of linguistic diversity, Nepali is the sole official language used as the medium of instruction in primary education throughout the country. However, there have been recent initiatives on multilingual education in Nepal’s primary and adult education. The MLE policy is enshrined in the various constitutional and legal provisions in Nepal in relation to MLE-related international laws and human rights obligations. Nepal has recently shifted the monolingual ideologies and established linkage between Nepal’s MLE policies, plans, programs, and interventions and their manifestations in schools. MLE piloting and local-level initiatives have significantly contributed to developing models for MLE expansion and mother tongue based pedagogies in different languages with the focus on creating indigenized materials, setting strategies and processes, and identifying good practices that have shown visible results in multilingual classroom settings.

In the context where community schools are shifting their medium to English from Nepali languages and guardian’s growing tendency of sending their children to English medium private schools, there are a lot of challenges of multilingual education in Nepal. However, the replica of best MLE practices along with local linguistic and cultural immersion, substantial awareness and advocacy at grassroots level and extensive MLE intervention for basic education and literacy class followed by proper joint monitoring by concerned GOs and I/NGOs could be the ways for effective MLE in Nepal.

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Mahidol University, Thailand and Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE WG) for providing me the scholarship to attend the international conference in Bangkok. I am equally thankful to Plan Nepal for creating conducive environment to attend the event.

Number of people celebrating Chhath in Valley on rise

I originally wrote the news story for Republica.

When he was studying at a college in Kathmandu, Vijay Prasad Keshari, a native of Gaur in Rautahat district, would always feel nostalgic during Chhath festival.

Back then, the government was yet to declare national holiday on the day of Chhath. So Keshari would hardly get a chance to visit his home to celebrate the festival. Keshari, now employed and busy in his work, still finds it difficult to visit Gaur during Chhath festival. But he no longer feels nostalgic.

download

“Even this year I could not go home,” said he. “But I do not miss the celebration as much as I used to during my college years.” Keshari explained that now Madheshi people residing in the capital enjoy Chhath festival here with as much joy and excitement as in their villages in the Terai. Like Keshari, thousands of devotees observed Chhath, known as the festival of the sun god, on the banks of rivers and ponds in Kathmandu on Wednesday evening. Rani Pokhari, which attracts large number of devotees, was aglow with colorful and bright lights and stalls. Rani Pokhari was opened for Chhath celebration eight years ago with significant efforts of the then local development minister Rajendra Pandey, according to members of Chhath celebration committee, 2071 BS. On Wednesday and Thursday, among four-day Chhath celebration that started from Monday, devotees, especially colorfully dressed women, offer argha and prasad to the setting and the rising sun standing knee-deep in the water. This year, the number of devotees celebrating Chhath festival in Kathmandu has remarkably increased and the trend continues, claimed Suman Jayaswal, vice-coordinator of the committee. According to him, around 300 families have registered with the committee for the ghats, or river banks where devotees erect their prayer stalls. But additional families observing Chhath also came to Rani Pokhari. Kashinath Rauniyar, a local businessman from Parsa, migrated to Kathmandu some two decades ago. “I have been celebrating the festival in the Valley since a long time. However, I decided to join the celebration at the Rani Pokhari recently after it was opened for the festival.” However, for Durga Nand Mandal and his family, who hail from Mahadeva VDC of Saptari, it is the second year that they have been observing the festival in the Valley. The family, who is running a business here, says the one-day government holiday makes the celebrations quite hectic for them. “My family celebrates Dashain and Tihar in my hometown. But we have been celebrating the festival here for the last four years,” Santosh Shah, president of Today´s Youth Asia, told Republica. Although his families have been living in the capital city for the last decade, until recently they traveled to Barhathwa of Sarlahi district to celebrate Chhath. “Due to just one day holiday, we always faced a lot of hassles,” Shah added. Shambhu Prasad Jayaswal, a vegetable vendor in Kalimati, shared the same compulsion. “My children are enrolled in schools in the Valley. Visiting our hometown would hamper their education,” said Jayaswal, who comes from Rautahat district. Chhath festival is also celebrated by people from Pahadi community residing in Tarai. Among them is Jyoti Baidya belonging to Newar Community, who had been celebrating Chhath in Parsa district. But this year the Baidya family is celebrating the festival in Kathmandu for the first time. “As all my families and relatives are here in Kathmandu, we have started celebrating here,” Jyoti said. “All I had to do was to bring my mother to Kathmandu from Birgunj.” Chhath is equally popular in neighboring India. Chandra Dev Sah, an Indian national from Muzaffarpur of the Indian State of Bihar, has been celebrating the festival in Kathmandu since the time his ancestors established a business here five decades ago. “Visiting my village for the festival would not only be costlier but also hectic,” said Chandra.

Chhath now and then

Chhath, also known as the festival of Sun God, which used to be celebrated only in the Tarai until a decade ago, is now fast evolving as a national festival, bringing joy and excitement to people living across the country.

Spurt in the rural-urban migration as a result of various political movements over the last decade has led to expansion of Chhath celebrations beyond Terai, say cultural experts and Madhes-based social activists.

Photo: Republica Online
Photo: Republica Online

As a result of the Tarai movement, Madheshi communities living outside Tarai have also started celebrating the Chhath festival. According to social activists, the recent celebration of Chhath festival outside their region has emboldened the Madhesi community.

I originally wrote the news story for and published in Republica.

“Previously, Chhath was just a Madhesi festival; but it has now become national,” said Dipendra Jha, an advocate at the Supreme Court. 1. Dipendra Jha

For the Madhesi people, Chhath is their most important festival. During this festival, most of them tend to visit their homes from wherever they are working or studying. Even those who cannot go home celebrate the festival in the place they are living.

Of late, people from Tarai region have been observing Chhath festival in Rani Pokhari of Kathmandu. Since Rani Pokhari became the center of Chhath celebration for the Madheshi people living in the capital, the festival has gained more prominence.

However, the way people celebrate Chhath festival is fast changing now.

“During my childhood, cultural events like drama used to be performed in my locality on the occasion of Chhath festival. But, such a practice no longer exists,” said advocate Jha, who hails from Mahottari district and has been living in Kathmandu for a decade now.

2. Chandrakishore copyGone are the days when cultural shows like plays, dances, wrestling competitions and other entertaining events used to be integral parts of the Chhath festival, according to Chandrakishore Jha, a Tarai-based political analyst known for his ring-side view about the issues of Madhes.

“Chhath was earlier nature friendly and people would use locally produced materials like clay pots and bamboo-wares,” Jha said. “But, people are now mostly purchasing items available in the market.”

Dhirendra Premarshi, a socio-cultural expert, shares a similar view. “People used to celebrate Chhath in a simple way but now it has become an occasion to show off,” said he.4. Dhirendra Premarshi

He said that the festival holds a great significance from socio-cultural, agricultural and scientific perspectives. According to him, there used to be local markets of agricultural products such as fruits, sugarcane, carrot, clay pots and bamboo-wares.

Premarshi, a native of Siraha district, shows his concerns over the waning effect of the festival due to modernization and migration of rural people to urban centers and even abroad.

Tula Narayan Shah, another social activist from Saptari district, said, “Electronic media and technology has affected performance of different cultural events such as plays and dances during the Chhath festival.”

3. Tula Narayan Shah

 

 

“After I moved to Kathmandu some two decades ago, the celebration of Chhath festival in Kathmandu was very rare,” recalls Shah, who is also executive director of Nepal Madhes Foundation (NEMAF). “Now it is observed on almost every river and reservoir of Kathmandu.”

 

The fact that Chhath used to be a regional festival in the past is also upheld by Badri Shrestha, a 5. Badri Shresthadevelopment practitioner. “I knew about Chhath only when I went to work in Biratnagar in 1996,” said he. “Until then, I had very little idea about spirituality and aesthetic value of Chhath.”

 

Shrestha said, “Today, Chhath is celebrated almost all over the country and by all social groups.”

 

Celebration of ´Chhath´ dates back to the Vedic age. According to Lunar Calendar, it generally falls on the sixth day of Suklapaksha of Kartik month and is observed for four days with great enjoyment.

On the first day, devotees, mostly women, take a holy dip in rivers, ponds or reservoirs and avoid non-vegetarian food. On the second day, known as ´kharana´ in local language, they fast rigorously without even drinking a single drop of water. On this very day, they make arrangements for the festival, including decoration of ghats (the banks of rivers and reservoirs).

On the third day, homemade special sweets such as Thekuwa and Bhusuwa (sweets made from wheat or rice flour, ghee and sugar) and rice pudding are prepared, while the devotees enter into water to offer those items and seasonal fruits to the setting sun. On the last day, devotees offer prayers to the rising sun.

Chhath celebration in major towns of Tarai districts, including Biratnagar, Rajbiraj, Lahan, Janakpur and Birgunj and even at the Rani Pokhari in Kathmandu is the center of attraction. On the occasion, a great number of people from all communities visit those places to watch and enjoy the celebrations.

Investing in Teachers

On October 5, we celebrated World Teachers’ Day with the theme “Invest in the future, invest in teachers!” Since long, it has been observed in the academia that teachers and education policymakers are at loggerheads. But it is high time for both to come together and start a discourse in order to confront the issues they are currently dealing with. Teaching has undergone drastic change over the last few years, as the old procedures and methods used in teaching are no more applicable in the new contexts.

This is the digital era of technology. Today the challenge facing the teachers is to bring latest technologies to the classroom. If the teachers, who claim themselves educated, are not able to use technologies and fail to integrate them for pedagogical purpose, they are to be taken as illiterates. Lots of technological tools can be used for educational purpose but lack of competence and knowhow about those tools can make teachers outdated. As children of our times are exposed to latest technologies, teachers must go a step ahead.

Here's the link of the article originally published in Republica.

Today’s children and adults have diverse learning needs driven by new contexts. Hence, in facilitating their learning needs teachers require skills, knowledge and support. Therefore, investment in teachers is a must as it will have direct bearing on future of children they teach.

Needless to say, deficiency in teachers undermines quality education of a country. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 1.4 million teachers are missing in classrooms and they are needed to achieve universal primary education (UPE) by 2015. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report (EFA GMR) on October 6 jointly released a paper stating that countries will need to recruit more than 4 million more teachers to achieve UPE by the deadline. To replace teachers leaving the profession, 2.6 million would be needed while filling new positions. The remaining 1.6 million is a must as well. There should be no more than 40 pupils per teacher. The paper also claims that at least 27 million teachers should be recruited even if the deadline is extended to 2030.

29318

Another challenge facing us is the lack of qualified and trained teachers. Thus achieving quality education has been a far-fetched dream for many countries.

As the 2015 deadline of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is nearing it is high time to shape new development agenda for which investment in teachers should be a priority. World Teachers’ Day this year was themed with the same notion.

Realizing the urgency for investing in educators, heads of different UN agencies have issued a joint statement this year. The agency chiefs say that an education system is only as good as its teachers, calling for more rigorous training, better conditions for employment, quality-based teacher recruitment, thoughtful deployment and attracting new teachers and talents, especially young people and women from under-represented communities. “Innovative, inclusive and results-focused teaching is crucial for 2015 and beyond,” the statement reads.

Likewise, Global Thematic Consultation on Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda states good conditions of employment including appropriate contracts and salaries, prospects for career progression and promotion, good work environment based on creating school contexts that are conducive to teaching, high-quality pre-and in-service training for teachers based on respect for human rights and the principles of inclusive education, and effective management, including teacher recruitment and deployment as essential conditions for supporting teachers’ effectiveness.

Teachers require support in enabling themselves to become professionals through their involvement in various trainings, workshops and conferences, journal writing and research publications. They can also develop professionalism by getting associated with professional forums of teachers, which often organize professional enhancement programs for their members.

Such associations not only help strengthen their professional capacity but also influence policymakers to reform policies for teachers’ welfare. Policymakers need to engage with both teachers and the teachers’ unions to devise policies in their favor for ensuring future of children and learners.

Judhshital: Water Festival in Terai

Nepalis across the country revel in various festivities to mark New Year according to Bikram era calendar. The pattern of celebration is the same across the nation.

However, people in Mithila region—mostly the geographical areas stretching from Rautahat to Morang in Tarai—have recently celebrated New Year 2071 for two days. On the first day, they mark Satuwain festival on the first day of Baisakh, by eating satu, the roasted flour made up of assorted beans, cereals and legumes. Most importantly on the second day, they observe WATER FESTIVAL wherein junior people received blessings from their seniors as the latter put water on their forehead.

Here's the link of the article originally published in Republica.

Like southern part of Nepal, other Southeast Asian countries like India, China, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos also observe the water festival for their New Year celebrations. In Thailand, water festival is called Songkran, a word from Sanskrit language meaning the beginning of a new solar year. Thai people consider it the festival for cleaning and purification as they clean houses and surrounding areas. They regard it as one of the most enjoyable festivals and it is generally celebrated from April 13 to April 15 on the occasion of Thai New Year. On the first day, Buddha statues are gently washed with scented water. Young people in Thailand pour scented water into the hands of their elders as a sign of respect and also seek blessings from them. Songkran is also observed in Burma, Laos and Cambodia.

More or less the reason and manner behind celebrating water festival in the South Asian countries are the same, and so is the occasion of welcoming New Year. It normally falls around from April 13 to 15. People observe the festival at the onset of summer and celebrate it with a view to cool in the scorching heat. Besides, sprinkling water gently at one another during the celebration shows a sign of respect. It is also a show of blessings and good wishes.

Sadly, Nepal’s water festival, according to Mithila culture experts, has failed to receive due attention from Nepali media, largely because of lethargy of media persons from the Tarai. Media across the country widely cover another festival of this region ‘Chhath’, also known as festival of Sun God. As a result of media coverage, celebration of ‘Chhath’ that was once limited in certain areas, has extended to other parts of the country in the recent years. Even in Kathmandu, people of Tarai have been observing the festival at the Rani Pokhari.

Celebrating a festival gives a sense of unity and togetherness. Nepali communities are diverse in terms of their own diverse identity, culture and religion, and also geographical landscape but they stand together when it comes to celebration of national festivals like Dashain, Dipawali, and Holi. For instance, people from all religions in the country celebrate Dipawali and Holi since they take them for the victory of good over evil. The way they observe the festival fosters a sense of unity.

Nepal’s water festival is celebrated by all the people in Mithila region, mostly in Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Siraha, Saptari, Sunsari and Morang districts. They call it Siruwa or Judshital in the local language. The local term ‘Judshital’ consists of two words, ‘jud’ which means blessing and ‘shital’ refers to cool. Hence, this festival, as its literal meaning suggests, is observed by people, offering blessing to their juniors, by putting water on their foreheads.

The Tarai region during this season bakes in scorching heat and with a belief that water brings cool environment, people residing there observe this festival. On this occasion, people maintain cleanliness in their surroundings. They sweep premises of their houses and streets, and sprinkle water on them.

Water festival is linked with nature and agriculture. Even trees and plants are watered and given a new life. As this is the time for harvesting, people cook many varieties of food items, including mango fruits as one of the special items, and they are served to their friends, relatives and neighbors.

Water is lifeline for plants, animals and human beings. At a time, when water resources are drying up due to massive deforestation, climate change and rampant exploitation over natural resources, its values are much important. Water festival teaches community about significance of water. It gives the message of socialization and cleanliness.

Cultural experts argue that compared to the past celebrations, enthusiasm for celebrating the festival of water has diminished each year due to modernization and migration of rural people to urban areas. This festival needs to be promoted and kept alive.