NOTE: Please read Part 1 of this series before commenting on this article for moderation and publishing.

Infrastructure before quality of education?
Infrastructure before quality of education?

We ended Part 1 of this lengthy post by describing a meeting with Nepal’s Ministry of Education and how they seemed to be supporting our efforts politically. Also remember we had been observing primary schools for two years in Kathmandu and had conducted a pilot programme to arrive at our conclusion that what happened inside the school related to pedagogy, teacher behaviour, values, and child centredness was top priority to catalyse changing the system.

unleashing-nepal-copyWe moved on from this infamous meeting with Dr Awasthi to return to the UK and begin an intense project to develop an extensive teacher training programme with Haverigg Primary School teachers in Cumbria. We had been encouraged greatly after reading Sujeev Shakya’s book Unleashing Nepal describing how Nepal needed to change post the civil war with the Maoists. Specifically he placed great emphasis on Nepali youth, a better education system, and moral values as critical areas for focus and investment, and our subsequent meeting with him a few months later helped to strengthen our views about the need for a greater QUALITY of education being delivered. As our programme took shape on the drawing board in the U.K. we recruited our first full time staff member in Kathmandu, Babita Shrestha, who saw an exciting opportunity to make a difference across the whole system and gave up her job as a teacher to join us. She was only 24 years old, and took a brave step before we even had anything for her to deliver. We had no office, no training room, no equipment and no materials. But ……. our intellectual capital was increasing dramatically thanks to the Cumbria teachers developing training modules with slides, handouts, and trainer notes. Our finances were improving too from both grant providers AND kind individuals who listened to our strategy for developing quality education in Nepal rather than throwing money at school buildings, school uniforms, toilets, or actually paying kids to attend school! Yes, this actually happened, but more of this later.

After we had run just one or two 5 day pedagogy based course for teachers, at great expense using a Lalitpur Hotel, we started to get numerous requests from whole schools to train the entire teaching team. We needed more staff! But we also needed to change our approach from being merely runners of courses into being school developers so within 6 months we had a total of 8 staff and a programme of “whole school development” aimed at helping the school to understand and focus on the delivery of Quality Education, the topic we were being asked about most.

However we also started to realise that our strategy was “conflicting” with that of the Ministry of Education, bilateral donors and major INGOs. Their focus via the School Sector Reform Plan was mostly on enrolment, getting more children of primary age to START school, and this was driven by the UN dictat of the Millennium Development Goals, more specifically Universal Primary Education. In fact the UN seemed to be obsessed with measurements of how many children enrolled each year of the SSRP broken down by gender and compared with previous years but with very little concern for what happened to those children on entering school or how many of them were retained year on year. Probably in their desperation to satisfy donor monitoring, the MoE actually started to PAY children to go to school and to pay girls more than boys! We think you should read that sentence again in case you don’t believe it!

So we now have a very clear situation of the Nepal Ministry of Education putting the cart before the horse, with enrolment/buildings/teacher pay/school management committee all being more important than the quality of education being received by the children inside the school. A reasonable analogy is of a restaurant owner paying more attention to the tables/chairs/cutlery/staff pay/building than the quality of food served! You couldn’t make this up in a fairytale, nobody would believe you.


Despite this we knew we were doing the best for the children of Nepal, and slowly but surely our reputation grew with schools, principals, teachers, parents, children and a few colleges as we strived to “blitz” whole schools with teacher training, management training, governance, teacher observation and coaching. Unfortunately our reputation took a nosedive with Ministry of Education, bilateral donors and INGOs ……… what could we possibly be doing wrong?

Answers on a pinhead and posted in comments please!

Next? You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs!