Maya Sagarmatha school has 6 classes: A, B, C, D, E and N; children with similar ages and capacities to learn are grouped into the same class, with A class having the brightest children, who also tend to be the oldest.
The school employs only 3 permanent teachers to teach the children Nepali, English and Maths, whilst other subjects are delivered by the volunteers depending on their availabilities. Due to the remote location of the school and the difficult journey one has to undertake, the school naturally sees a shortage of teaching volunteers for most time of the year. The head teacher Ashis, having adjusted to managing with this scarcity and the quietness imposed by the surrounding mountainous valleys, suddenly found himself overwhelmed by our ‘army’ of Imperial volunteers. Although dazzled by the number of volunteers, he was delighted to have more than enough helping hands. After allocating most of our volunteers to teaching and construction, it was Stevie and I who were left without jobs. After some thoughts and much to our dismay, Ashis decided to send us to cook livestock food and walking goats on the first day, which we were completely inept in.
However, Bidu dai (a permanent staff at the school) kindly came to assist us and had taught us how to start a fire, as well as leading us through the processes of making livestock food. As we trailed behind him whilst he was making these grunting noises in his throat to hurry the goats along, the laughter from nearby classrooms kept flowing into my ears. Stevie and I shared a look which we both knew was a combination of jealousy at the people who got to spend time with the children and bemusement at our inadequacy in managing livestock.
Later on, we went to Ashis to request whether there were any extra classes we could take whilst promising that we would continuing making livestock food for the rest of our stay. To our surprise, Ashis wanted us to deliver first-aid classes to Class A, B and C.
To maximise the usefulness of these lessons, Stevie and I thought about the commonest injuries and illnesses amongst the children. In addition, we decided to omit certain components of a first-aid course, such as chest compressions, due to consideration of their ability to adequately understand a topic at their age (mostly around 10-year-old) and the lack of immediate access to a well-facilitated hospital (the nearest hospital was 8-10 hours away). In addition, we also decided to teach some basic human biology to increase the children’s knowledge base of the human body, which is essential in understanding the ways one should approach an injured or ill person.
During our first lesson, the importance of hygiene was emphasised, for cuts are among the commonest injuries seen in the school. Despite the fact that the children all knew that keeping clean is important, they rarely translate this moto into their actions. To fully drill this concept into their heads, we simplified the processes of treating minor cuts into the following: Clean, Dry, Medicine and Bandage. To make the lesson more interesting, we also implemented some practical elements to it by teaching the kids different ways of bandaging a wound. It was absolutely adorable to see them enthusiastically stepping into the roles of casualty and healer and giggling as they bandage each other up.
For most the time, the classes were easy to manage as these children constantly seek out precious opportunities to learn. Occasionally, the liveliness of the kids would get hold of them and they would say in a high-pitched, imploring manner ‘Ma’am and Sir, let’s go and play football…’ So Stevie and I made a compromise with the classes- five minutes will be left at the end of each lesson to play games as long as they listen attentively to each lesson. It was during these game times that bonded with the children the most, where we would talk about their dreams after growing up and they would ask us about how we live our lives.
By the end of the 2 weeks, Stevie and I had covered various first-aid topics: Hygiene, bandaging, treating a cold and fever. Moreover, to increase their understating of the human body, we also covered some organ systems such as the heart, kidneys, lungs, brain and blood vessels.
It was very emotional to part with the children after the end of 2 weeks. To convince us to stay, a boy from Class B came up to me and promised that he will remember all the things we have taught him and repeated ‘Clean, Dry, Medicine and Bandage’ back to me again. My heart swelled with proudness of him and also reluctance to leave. Of course, I don’t expect them to remember everything we taught them, they deserve a free period where they can roam freely on the field to play football…