Duskot Village – Education visit (Part 2: Shree Bhimsen Secondary School)

On arrival in Duskot, we grabbed all our gear and made our way up the narrow path to the Shree Bhimsen Secondary School. We were met by the very attentive caretaker who opened up two classrooms for us. We would be sleeping in these classrooms. Raj in one room, and the 5 girls and I in another. We had mats and sleeping bags with us but the caretaker kindly brought some pillows and covers for us to use to keep comfortable and warm. We stopped for a short while to have tea and biscuits.

It got dark soon after we arrived and we had things to discuss and sort out, as well as have some dinner. Dinner was provided by the one shop in the village. A local woman had a small shop, just behind the school, where she sold things like candy and dried noodle snacks to the school children. She also had some provisions for the villagers, like school note pads and pencils, as well as biscuits and cigarettes. While we were there she cooked Dahl Bhat and breakfast for us and was helped by her husband whilst her young daughter played nearby.

After some food on that first night, we all went back to the school rooms and unpacked and sorted our gear. We discussed what we would do the next day, and how we would break into groups and talk to the children. It was decided that Amrita and Geeta would tackle the issues of puberty & sexual harassment. And Sonam and Sara would do oral hygiene and hand hygiene. I would help if required and also do a session on menstrual cup education. General discussion followed between us all as to how to approach these topics, however not speaking Nepali I could not understand what the others said. I really need some intensive Nepali lessons to be able to participate more.

Whilst having our discussions, all of a sudden there was a rumble and vibration through the building. The girls were quick to jump up and run out of the class, while I was not sure what was going on and was last out the door. I soon realized it was a small earthquake. The last time I had experienced an earthquake was as a school exchange student in Japan when I was 15 years old ! We waited outside for a while but there were no further tremors so we moved back inside and continued with our planning. This was a slightly unnerving moment because this village had suffered major damage during the 2015 earthquake, and was rebuilding where possible.

Once we had worked out our agenda for the following day we made up the sanitary kits we would be distributing to the students the next day. Each kit had soap, a hand towel, a pair of underwear, 2 washable sanitary shields, 6 absorbent, washable, reusable liners and a plastic bag to place the used liners in before washing. All this was packed into a zip up bag embroidered with the name ‘Let’s Clean Up Nepal’.

Sanitary kit contents
Making up the kits

In addition we had a fabulous educational kit provided by Lunette Australia. Their ‘Sustainable Period Project’ kit contained two sample menstrual cups, a biodegradable pad, a pair of period underwear, a washable pad, sone information and a USB with educational material pre-loaded. Thank you very much Lunette Australia.

As the night wore on we decided it was time for a sleep. We made up our bedding (mats, sleeping bags and blankets) and prepared for sleep.

The next morning we awoke fairly early to get things organized for the day. Once we got dressed and ready for the day we tidied up our sleeping area in the classroom. Breakfast was simple but all I needed – a boiled egg and tea. Then we headed back to classrooms to make final arrangements for the day. As the students started to arrive at the school some started peering in the windows to see what we were doing. They were quite inquisitive and surprised to see a tall foreigner in the class. When I waved at them through the windows some waved back and others shied away. Soon the Head Teacher arrived and we had a quick chat. Interesting one of the few questions he asked me was ‘How old are you?’ 😂

Ready to start the day

Just before school started, the 7 of us were invited into the office to meet the teachers. The teachers took their turn introducing themselves and their teaching area, and we introduced ourselves also. Following this we divided into groups to begin the education sessions. I followed Sonam and Sara initially where the sessions were about hand hygiene and oral hygiene to the younger students. The children were so sweet sitting and copying hand movements on how to wash hands effectively. They were also given a demonstration on how to brush their teeth well. Some of the children stood in front of the groups and used a toothbrush on a model of a mouth to show they were making sure they brushed all the teeth well and didn’t rush, At the end of each session every child was given a toothbrush and toothpaste.

This is the way we brush our teeth 🦷
Handing out toothbrushes and toothpaste
Loved this little one showing us he was brushing his teeth

As the morning wore on, Raj came to get me to sit in on a puberty and sexual harassment session with some older students. Geeta and Amrita were delivering this education with such confidence, it was great to see them in action engaging with the students. I was equally impressed with the students listening to them politely. During the lesson they gave the students books to look through about puberty. I had brought 50 of these books with me from Australia. They were quite unique in that they had a ‘Girls Puberty’ section on one side, and then if you flipped it over there was ‘Boys Puberty’ section. Although these books were written in English I hope they are a help in this School without resources like this. We left 10 books for the school library, and LCUN will distribute the others during future visits at other schools.

Some of the classes at the school were in makeshift classrooms. Since the earthquake of 2015 the school has been rebuilding. One block is finished, but another still has a long way to go. The new block just had brick walls, no plaster, concrete floors, and no roof. Some classes had no doors or windows installed. Temporary cover was provided via tarps, but these would be ineffective in snow and rain.

Lesson in unfinished classroom
Small class with just 3 walls

The morning passed quickly and soon it was lunchtime. We enjoyed a lunch of Dahl Bhat with the Head Teacher in the small shop. During lunch a few students came to buy candy, dried noodles or biscuits to snack on. After lunch the Head Teacher invited me to an upstairs staffroom/kitchen area in the ‘completed’ building. On the way from the shop to the school, literally one in front of the other, I could see students lining up to wash the dishes they had just eaten lunch from. On questioning to the Head Teacher and the science teacher, they explained that they provided lunch daily for the students. I asked if the parents had to pay the school or if it was part of the school fees, but was pleasantly surprised when I was told the Nepali Government funded it. The large room at the school contained a big storage container, a huge pan to cook on, water containers and big buckets to wash up in. It seems that all teachers help when it comes to lunch duty. Some cook, some serve, some wash and some clean up the large cooking pans. Even though I had eaten lunch I was encouraged to try their meal, which seemed to be a thicker, slightly saltier version of Dahl Bhat. It was delicious and I think has a different name. It’s nice to know the school provides lunch and the children will have a nice full tummy to provide their bodies with energy to learn for the rest of the day.

The afternoon gave us the opportunity to see more classes and the girls continued their wonderful lessons given in the Nepali language.

Towards the end of the day we moved to lessons about reusable/washable sanitary pads. We explained openly to all the students, male and female, the differences between disposable pads and reusable pads. The benefits of the reusable pads were explained (cheaper over time; do not add to landfill; will not add to pollution by being thrown in rivers or even burnt; and the health benefits to girls). We opened up one of the kits and explained what all the contents were for. Then showed them how to insert the washable pads into the liners; how to wear the liners in the underwear; and what to do with the used liners in regards to taking home and washing in cold water. We also explained how hand and body hygiene is very important during your period.

During the lessons (in Nepali, which I did not understand), after explaining the pads Sonam in one class and and myself in another class, assembled a pad inside underwear and pulled the underwear on over our clothes. We did look funny and got a few giggles.

Wearing underwear as outerwear

As well as our demonstration, Raj encouraged girls in each class to assemble the liners and pads in the underwear provided in the kit and explain what they were doing, so they could also teach friends and family. Many of the girls were too embarrassed to stand in front of the group, including in front of the boys, but a few did. Others averted their eyes as Raj looked for ‘volunteers’, probably thinking ‘Please don’t pick me.’ At the end of the sessions the kits were distributed to all the girls in each session.

Towards the end of the day I had some time to do a session on menstrual cups. I jokingly said the boys could turn around and after this was translated quite a few of them did. We said it was a joke and they turned to the front again. I tried to keep the session short and concise, acutely aware others were translating for me which can be exhausting for them. I explained how the menstrual cups worked and the extreme hygiene required when using them. I explained the difference of external use products like disposable pads and washable pads, compared to the menstrual cup which is used inside the female body. I demonstrated how to fold the cup and then explained how it was to be inserted vaginally to collect the menstrual blood; how to remove, empty, clean and sterilize. I explained how it could be worn overnight or all day with no ill effects. I think a few girls, and probably boys, got a bit of a shock when they realized just exactly where it went – there were a few surprised looks on faces. I had taken a kit with two sample menstrual cups to Nepal with me and given it to LCUN as an educational tool. The kit also had a USB with information, a sample biodegradable pad, and a pair of absorbent period underwear. It was a great kit aimed at ‘sustainable periods’.

Introducing the concept of menstrual cups
Explaining how to remove the cup

The last session of the day was with the older students, who seemed to stay back after school had actually finished. When we had finished we went outside and Raj did a presentation of a water filter to the school, to help provide clean drinking water. A few photos were taken with the Head Teacher, teachers and a few students but I am sorry I don’t have one to share.

After school we packed up our gear and chatted about the day. Eventually it was time for dinner. We went up to the shop again for Dahl Bhat before returning to the school. We congregated in the ‘girls’ room to discuss the day and give feedback. Although they asked me for feedback about the lessons I could not provide much as I had no idea what information was passed on. I don’t speak Nepali so could not understand. And when I spoke in the classes someone (Geeta or Amrita) had to translate for me. I did say however that the team presented well and with great confidence to get the message across. From that point it was successful indeed.

To be continued – Part 3 Village women, and bus back to Kathmandu.

Check out part one also https://letscleanupnepal.home.blog/2019/12/14/duskot-village-education-visit-part-1the-journey-to-duskot/

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