13 December 2015

Surya Boarding School

This is an overdue post about the place where I actually work, Surya Boarding School.

First of all, the school's main gate can be reached from the main drag in Khandbari via a picturesque back alley in just two or three minutes.

Our alley
However, reaching the classrooms takes an additional five minutes of walking, as the grounds are quite extensive. Alas, the whole place is built into the side of a steep mountain slope (this can't be helped; very few places around here are flat), so going across the grounds is more like hiking than walking.
So many stairs
The entire campus can't be captured in a single photograph from the ground and is beyond my limited artistic capacity to recreate on paper. It consists of an office, a cafeteria, six buildings containing multiple classrooms, two outdoor assembly areas, a soccer field, and a few acres of terraced fields used for teaching sustainable agriculture. Currently under construction are one classroom building, an additional office which will contain a new library, an expansion for the cafeteria, underground wiring, and better outdoor paths/stairs. It's great; I can only imagine what kinds of fun my childhood friends and I would have had exploring such a place during recess.

Primary/secondary level classrooms
Occupying this space are about 650 students [7/11/16 edit: 700 in the 2016-17 school-year], 40 faculty and staff, and a small army of temporary construction workers. The students range from nursery level to tenth grade, and many of them have attended only this school since the beginning of their education. The school aspires to offer eleventh grade (which is like junior college in Nepal; see my earlier post about the Nepali education system) starting next year.

Primary level classrooms
Students take all compulsory subjects with the addition of computer science, trigonometry/precalculus, and sustainable agriculture, the last of which is integrated into the curriculum of the mandatory Occupation, Business, and Technology class. Each school-day runs 10-4, with eight 40-minute periods, a 30-minute recess, and a short assembly at the beginning and end of the day.

New construction
There are few teaching resources beyond textbooks, whiteboards, an offline computer lab, and whatever can be found or improvised from local materials (some of these improvised things are actually really neat, particularly in the science classes), but we do our best with what we've got. The teachers are paid significantly less than their peers in government schools, which, sadly, is the norm here, but the school recently began a pension program for teachers of 5+ years to encourage long-term retention.

Current projects at the school include trying to ban junk food, improving the quality and variety of healthy food available at the cafeteria, improving the availability of multimedia in the classrooms, and trying to make the school a litter-free zone.

The infrastructure going up here is beyond anything else happening at schools in this district, or in most others. I've heard more than one Nepali person say that they didn't think a school in the mountains would ever be like this. There are two or three other developments happening which are secrets for now, but which will probably make an appearance on this blog in the coming months...

Here, ancient temples
Mountains up above the clouds
And rusty tin roofs

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