The Malagiri School


January 2014 – Trip report

The Malagiri Primary School is jointly supported by the School of Education, University of Brighton, and the Trinity Group from Karlstad in Sweden. The school was opened in April 2011. Since the opening, a visit to the school has been undertaken by colleagues from the School of Education on an annual basis during January. During the visit, representatives from the University are able to spend time with the children and staff as well as observing teaching and ensuring that the school continues to run smoothly.

This annual visit currently coincides with the Year 3 BA Primary Education students’ Complementary Placement, which is an education placement in a non-mainstream setting. Numbers of students choosing to take their placement in Nepal have steadily increased over the years, and this year there were 20 students who undertook placements in schools around the Kathmandu Valley. The school placement aspect of the visit is organised by a company called Live Nepal, who are based in Kathmandu. Om and Priti Yogi, who are the directors of this company, are local contacts for the University of Brighton, providing valuable induction experiences for our students including information about local culture and educational settings.

Malagiri Primary School
There are currently 48 children who are taught in two classes: the younger class comprising 28 3-5 year olds, and the older class comprising 20 5-7 year olds . The school is led by the Head teacher Anita Tamang who is supported by two other teachers (Pawan Basnet and Rubina Maya Tamang ), a coordinator (Dinesh Tamang), a caretaker (Ram Bahadu Syangtang ) and two kitchen staff, (Shanti Maya Thing Tamang and Pinki Syantan Tamang). Building work on a third classroom is now complete, and this is due to open in April, when a new cohort of 12 children will start. The school will then be formed of 3 classes and the total number of pupils will rise to approximately 60. Children will then stay on for a further year before making the transition to secondary school at the age of approximately 8.

Daily activities
The children currently spend 8 hours at the school each day. They arrive between 7.30am – 8am and go straight to the dining room for tea and an assembly. After this, all children wash their faces and hands, brush their teeth and then there are lessons until 10.30am, when they wash their hands and have their lunch (their main meal of the day). There are more lessons until 1.30pm where the children stop for a snack. After this there is time for meditation, before lessons continue until the end of the day. At 4pm, the children line up and walk home together to the local villages.

At 5pm, Anita opens the school for local girls to learn knitting and craft. The staff eat together at 7pm each day.

Our visit: 28-30 January
We travelled to Malagiri with the 20 complementary placement students on the 28th January. It took three hours to make the approximately 36 km journey via mini bus. We were able to meet the children, who performed a number of songs for us, before having a traditional Nepali lunch together in the dining room. During the afternoon, the students spent 2-3 hours playing outside with the children before they returned to Kathmandu to start their placements. Use was made of the parachute and the students had brought skipping ropes, juggling balls, poi and other activities to engage the children. The children proved very responsive to singing games and rhymes and we have donated ‘Hokey Cokey’ to the school repertoire amongst other ‘traditional’ rhymes! Hilary presented the children with two parrot hand puppets from the university and we distributed the oranges which we had brought with us from Kathmandu.

On the second day, Hilary and Jess walked with Anita and Dinesh to visit the local Government School, which was a very positive experience (see section 5 below). This was the first time that Anita had made a visit and this was clearly a valuable and important experience for her, and one which should help her prepare Malagiri children for transition to their secondary schooling. After returning to the school and having lunch, we were able to observe the children painting pictures to give to Kevin. We were also able to observe a range of lessons in the classrooms. There is clear evidence of the value placed on play-based learning and resources are being well used in class. At the same time, there are also links to more traditional Nepali teaching methods, with some visible rote learning elements also visible. The headteacher, Anita, has a clear view of the educational context to which Malagiri children will ultimately transfer.

The rooms are bright and colourful with posters and displays being used to support children’s independent learning and children’s work celebrated through display. There is constant oral reinforcement of spoken English woven throughout the day. Anita is an excellent oral story-teller. Hilary did some reading and singing games with the children and we shared some ideas with Anita about the songs and games that the students had played with the children the day before, to extend her bank of ideas.

We also had a conversation about ways in which systems for managing the administration of the school could be improved, but it was quite difficult to make ourselves understood with the language barrier. Anita is clearly a confident and accomplished school manager and is ably supported by Dinesh the Coordinator. What did become clear, was the ways in which staff at the school are beginning to engage with social media, particularly Facebook, and we believe that this will be very important for communication and the promotion of the school in the future. Although in a very rural location, the Nepali mobile networks operate a very strong signal.

We took part in the knitting club every evening and it was very good to talk to some of the girls from the local villages. This is a very valuable space for them to come and learn new, practical skills. It was notable that the girls were a lot younger than we were expecting (early teens); we had anticipated that it would be older women attending. There is clearly much groundwork to be completed here in order to build participation to a more level where more significant impact is possible on the local community.

Jess attempted to teach Anita how to crochet, using the hooks that she had given them as a gift. It would be beneficial to send out some instructions in Nepali, to reinforce this to Anita and allow her to teach the other girls. Significant knitting resources have been provided by the Trinity group, including two sewing machines. No-one is currently able to operate the sewing machines, but it was noted that colleagues from the Trinity group hope to teach them during their next visit.

Visit to local government school
On the second day of our visit, we visited the local Government school, which is a half an hour walk from the Malagiri School. There are several hundred students at the school whose ages range from 8 to 18 (with some pupils as old as 20). The school is currently performing very well, so much so that the Government have recently funded the development of a new building in recognition of raised exam results.

Despite this additional funding, the differences between the two schools were vast. Although the children at the Government school all had uniforms, the learning environment was very different. Class sizes were very big and in some cases, children were unsupervised because staff were unavailable or unwell. The accommodation was cramped and simple. The classrooms were over-crowded with pupils (c.40+ to a class) who were seated at desks in rows and facing front; boys and girls were segregated to particular sides of each class. There were no visual displays and teaching and learning focussed on the use of set text books and directly related to national exams.

We met a couple of children who had previously attended the Malagiri school who were working in an unsupervised class. There was a significant amount of rote learning taking place and a number of classes were working in exercise books, copying and repeating text. This was in direct contrast to the learning taking place in Malagiri, which was significantly more visual and interactive. The Headteacher, who was showing us around his school, commented on the creativity of the thinking displayed by children from Malagiri. He also said that these children had been started in a higher grade class because they were so much more in advance of other new entrants.

We had the opportunity to meet a number of teaching staff and to engage in professional dialogue with them. The Headteacher and several of his team spoke good English which enabled us to discuss in detail his plans for his school and the national context in which he was working. He was born in the area and had returned to work as Headteacher just a couple of years previously. He was passionate about education and his wish to transform the life experiences of children from within the local community. He argued for the need to involve parents and has worked hard to strengthen links with the wider community. This sounded promising in terms of building communication and liaison between Malagiri and the secondary sector.

Conclusions/ways forward
The visit to Malagiri School was very successful and all aspects of the school are working very well. The most pressing priority is the need to ensure that the excellent grounding the children are given at the Malagiri, is not lost when they move onto the local Government school, where resources are much more limited and access to teachers is reduced.

Our recommendations include:

  • Staff from Malagiri School to build stronger links with colleagues at the Government school, so that:
    • Best practice can be shared
    • Transition arrangements for Malagiri children can be tailored to meet needs
  • Conduct a review of the partnership between the SoE Malagiri Committee and the Trinity Group to update and establish a strategic joint vision of future (and appropriate) support for Malagiri Primary School
  • Discuss how to establish meaningful links between the School of Education and the local Government school, so that:
    • A channel for professional knowledge exchange might be established
    • The Malagiri School might be used as a model of best practice for professional development
    • Opportunities for placement in an international educational setting might be explored (involving BA (Hons) Education course?)
  • As mentioned above, the staff at the school actively engage with social media. It would be beneficial to set up a Malagiri Facebook page to promote the charity and the events associated with it. Anita and other staff can post photographs and updates from the school to all of the followers, and this will provide a more regular stream of information, keeping it fresh in people’s minds and providing a ‘live’ link to the children as they progress through the school.

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