Seven years in Tityang

Seven years after he first visited this school in Baglung, new school children give Kim a warm welcome. Pic: Sangmin Kim

It used to be a grueling two-hour ride over rough roads to get to Tityang village from Baglung Bazar. It still takes two hours in a jeep, and the narrow road is as hair-raising as I remember it from 2011 when I worked here as a volunteer.

The picturesque scenery, the clusters of houses, and children who welcome me unconditionally are all very familiar from seven years ago when I volunteered at the Sigana Higher Secondary School in Tityang.

The most significant change is that there is now a new building which did not exist before. A metal plate on the first-floor wall proudly announces a Computer Lab with Nelson Mandela’s famous quote: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’

When a group of us of the Korea Information and Communications Technology volunteers arrived at the government school in Tityang in 2011, there were no computers accessible for students. To give computer lessons, we had to walk for an hour, lugging our laptops along. Today, the school has a lab with 20 computers built by EduTech Nepal with support from a New Zealand couple.

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Inside, a dozen students are learning to create a powerpoint presentation, and Principal Gopal Kumar Khadka says much of the progress in the school is because of donations, including a new library with more than 8,000 titles.

Another noticeable change is that a field where we used to teach the children Korean martial arts has been turned into a large playground where students now get physical education. It was the initiative of science teacher Krishna Khadka who passed away last year due to stomach cancer. He used to tell us that better facilities could change the lives of students who could then help transform the village.

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Khadka was a hard-working and motivated teacher and is sorely missed. I remember staying up late with him, sharing our knowledge of computers we brought with us from Korea. He had a strong, and rare, sense of responsibility and believed in the power of education. One of the reasons I wanted to go back to Tityang was to meet up with Teacher Khadka, only to find out that he had died.

His son, Yogesh Khadka, is a science teacher himself in Kathmandu and describes how perhaps because he knew he had limited time, his father put much effort in upgrading the school. “He was not just my father. I admired him for being a social hero who devoted his life to bring about change in education and school in the village,” Yogesh Khadka said.

In a trend familiar across Nepal because of outmigration as well as the preference for private schools, enrollment in Sigana school has dropped from 550 in 2011 to 400 today. Aside from the computer lab and library, the school needs more help. Yogesh Khadka wants to build on his father’s foundation by adding a subject like agricultural science in the curriculum.

“Most people here are farmers, so it would be useful to have practical classes about agriculture,” he says.

The sun was setting behind mountains to the west as I hurried to catch my jeep back to Baglung. The passage of time cast a lengthening shadow across a school that once taught me so much about Nepal, and about life.

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