Spreading Light with Her Brilliant Teaching Methods

Overcoming her own disability, a teacher in Nepal is helping earthquake-impacted children to continue to learn in a USAID and UNICEF-supported transitional learning structure

Aayush Niroula
Teacher Miss Indira
UNICEF Nepal/2018/ANiroula
13 December 2018

Bhaktapur, Nepal – A small mock shop is set up in the middle of a classroom. A small table serves as the counter and on it are a garlic bulb, a tomato, a potato, an onion, and a piece of ginger. On one side of the table sits the ‘customer’, and on the other the ‘shopkeeper.’

“How much is the garlic?” the customer – a young boy, asks in English.

“20 rupees,” the shopkeeper – a young girl, answers.

The girl hands him a five-rupee note, which is taken to be a twenty for the sake of the exercise, and the happy shopkeeper exchanges it for the garlic bulb.

The scene, as described by Indira Ghimire, a primary schoolteacher at Sharada Higher Secondary School in Suryabinayak Municipality of Bhaktapur District, is a regular activity in her class.

Indira, who was born visually impaired, puts a special focus on exercises like the customer-shopkeeper activity and other mock-up scenarios to make her conversational English class more practical. These exercises compliment the school’s English language curriculum, allowing students to recognize objects and practice conversing in English.

She was concerned that she would lose her students’ interest because of her disability and lack of extensive experience in teaching.

 “When I first started teaching about 13 years ago, I was scared and unsure of my abilities,” says she.  “I kept thinking about what I could do so that I could be an effective teacher.”

Indira with teachers
UNICEF Nepal/2018/ANiroula
Indira Ghimire teaches English to her students in the transitional learning centre, built under the USAID-UNICEF Emergency Education Response in Nepal project, at the Sharada Higher Secondary School in Suryabinayak Municipality of Bhaktapur.

As next phase, in 2017, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) introduced the Emergency Education Response for Nepal to build 250 transitional learning centers. The program is being implemented by UNICEF and local non-profit organizations and is allowing schools to transition out from temporary bamboo structures and into a more sturdy learning space for children. The new transitional learning structures built in Indira’s school made a tremendous difference in improving the learning environment for the children. Working in partnership with local governments, school management committees and faculty, the program is helping restore safe learning spaces in post-earthquake Nepal. In addition to constructing the transitional structures (classrooms), which can last up to five years, and restrooms and handwashing stations where needed, the program is also distributing learning materials and conducting trainings around disaster risk mitigation and management.

Indira compares the learning environment in her class before, and now in the transitional structures

“Earlier the benches were too tall for the students and uncomfortable for writing. The dust inside the classroom distracted and demotivated the students and I was always brushing up against the furniture or my students because the space was so small. And I also brushed against protruding nails or bamboo splinters,” she says. “Now there’s clean walls, and so much space. The students sit comfortably on a thick carpet, there’s a fan in the ceiling, and complete protection from all the elements.”