Teaching is known at Maya as one of the most rewarding yet tiring jobs. Apart from local teachers, volunteers who commit a long time at the school are allowed to teach. Some can even add their own classes if they can offer new skills and knowledge. For example, I have been teaching Chinese lessons while Kristof, who studies design engineering, has become a popular art teacher. Sarah has just started dancing lessons, and Woojin, our president, has been dissecting pigs hearts!
The school follows the Nepali National Primary Curriculum. Over 200 energetic students are divided into several class groups determined by age and capability. Rather than numbering the classes, at Maya each year group is given a name of an animal. The eldest year is called Tiger (around grade 6). The year below is called Simba (grade 5). Other years are Elephants, Rabbits etc.. Students at Maya are very bright and pick things up very quickly. The Tiger and Simba classes consist of the ones who speak English most fluently. The most naughty little students at Maya are called “wild rabbits”. The little ones (kindergarten age) are taken care of by local Nepali teachers, because they cannot speak English.
Students at Maya either live in the hostel on campus, as their families live far away or are unable to care for them, or live in nearby villages. Due to the recent earthquake, the school has adopted 25 students for free so that they have a safe environment to stay and study in.
A day of teaching begins after Circle Time, i.e. morning assembly at Maya . The timetable changes every day as some teachers may have personal matters to attend to. Some classes are compulsory in order to comply with the national curriculum, such as English, Maths, science and Nepali language. Once teachers finish a module, students are given a test and those who do well are praised during Circle Time.
Students who fall behind in class, especially in mathematics and science, are given smaller tutor classes in the morning with volunteers who are spending less time at the school.
Other classes include computer class, music, art and social studies, where students learn geography, politics, history and astronomy. As the American presidential election is approaching, the Tiger class is learning about how the american political system works at the moment. Students in computer class, which I also teach, are learning how to use Microsoft office on Windows and LibreOffice on Linux. Soon they are going to learn about computer viruses!
Classes finish at around 3, and students can attend extra curricular activities which they sign up for. From sports like karate and football to extra language lessons in Chinese and Korean, students can learn in a more fun and relaxed environment. My Chinese class consists of 4+ students. Having taught them for 2 weeks, they have already mastered the four tones and pinyin. We even performed a Chinese song 蟲兒飛 in Circle Time last week. From then on, more students have been asking to join my Chinese class, and my own students have become part time teachers.
For the past several years, all classes at Maya have been reusing textbooks with rarely any new material in the curriculum. This year, Imperial college brought two Raspberry Pis and projectors to test out whether they will be useful in class. Our goal is to 1) make students more attentive, 2) facilitate teaching, 3) allow students to self learn, 4) make these two mini computers sustainable and portable. Students who have seen them in action have been more attentive but we still need more time to find out whether the project is successful and helpful for teaching.
Keep up with us if you want to hear more about our progress at Maya!