by Ingrid Hirt, Nepal ’14
Indra Nepal is the headmaster of Okhale’s only primary school, Okhale’s only school of any level for that matter. I had the pleasure of interacting with him on the worksite throughout our time in Okhale, and his presence was one of calmness, control, and some surprising goofiness and playfulness. He has one of those faces that is ageless and his eyes are full of time and depth. Indra his lived in Okhale for the past 19 years, but as a child he lived in another village nearby and had to walk up the mountain every day in order to get to school. He has two sons who are studying in Kathmandu in the 11th and 12th classes. Their names are Ram Kumar and Raj Kumar.
As a teacher, Indra feels that his main goal is to impart good knowledge to students, and he enjoys doing this through fun, interactive games. He is very excited to open the two new school buildings that we helped to construct. I asked Indra what his hopes are for the future of education in Nepal, and he stressed the importance of more highly valuing teachers rather than businessmen, for example. He added that more funding for government schools would do much to equalize the quality of education between the very wealthy private schools and the poorly funded rural public schools. He also hopes that more schools that go past the primary level are made available, as many students only complete up to the fifth grade level, or tenth if they’re lucky. He also showed how mental disabilities are dealt with in public education in Nepal. He said that there are currently no rules or regulations for specialized classes or programs for those with mental disabilities, and it depends on the subject and teacher from school to school.
My final question was regarding how teaching evolution verses teaching religious explanations was approached. He responded that both science and religion are taught in school, specifically Hinduism and Buddhism, which are the primary religions of Nepal. Throughout our interview, I was reminded of Indra’s quiet earnesty and determination, and when I took my photo of Indra, I was amused by his playfulness as he posed in mid-bite of a cookie with his tea.