Promoting Literacy in Nepal

Posted by Molly Teas
December 9, 2011
Dr. Teas Shares a Book With People in Nepal

I recently spent a week visiting school libraries and meeting young female scholars in the Tanahun and Kaski districts of Nepal. Traveling with Cain Harrelson, Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, we visited libraries established by the San Francisco-based NGO, Room to Read. Just a handful out of the more than 10,000 established by Room to Read in nine countries, the libraries were stocked with colorful children's books in Nepali and English. Children sat around low tables, some reading with intense seriousness, others laughing with glee as they turned the pages.

The scene was one I couldn't have even imagined when I worked in one of the very same schools as a Peace Corps teacher of math and science 30 years ago. Then, the only books available in the entire village of Ghandrung were official textbooks, and the ones we had were old and tattered. The only English language book in the village at one point was a well-read copy of The Story of Bruce Lee, by his wife, Linda. Children's books were non-existent. Children were taught by rote memorization, and my efforts to introduce more student-centered learning and hands-on activities were met by parental threats to remove their children from school unless I began helping them memorize the textbooks.

Room to Read has brought not only libraries and books to schools; they also provide the teacher and librarian training essential to ensuring that the books are actually used and that learning is fun and interactive. The local teachers and librarians appreciate the the support they are receiving from the Department of State. Before leaving Ghandrung for our six-hour, downhill trek to begin our journey home, Shree Meshram Baraha Secondary School's librarian leaned over to Cain and provided these words of encouragement: "When the Americans come to Ghandrung, good things happen for our children."

We also had a chance to meet with local girls benefiting from Room to Read's scholarship program, which supports girls in completing their secondary education through the provision of uniforms, school supplies, tuition and fees, and a life skills program that includes tutoring and mentorship. The girls Cain and I met, fairly glowing with pride and sitting in the dark tea house where one of their fathers worked, said that they hoped to finish high school and become doctors one day. Again, a scene virtually unimaginable to me in my Peace Corps days when the furthest a girl had ever studied was the sixth grade and where I was the first female teacher in the school.

The Bureau of Central and South Asian Affairs is making a difference in the lives of thousands of children throughout South Asia by supporting Room to Read to dramatically scale up their programs in children's book publishing in both local languages and English, to establish school libraries, and support girls to complete high school. This partnership will continue as the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu explores ways to partner with Room to Read in advancing its many public diplomacy and education-focused goals. Part of a broader strategy to promote education in the region, the Room to Read initiative complements other efforts focused on higher education by helping ensure children have the foundation they need to succeed later in life.

Editor's Note: In describing the photograph accompanying this entry, Dr. Teas shared with us: "I made a small book to leave at the school library with photos of my time as a science and math teacher there from 1979-1982. The man standing to my right, an ex-Gurkha, burst into tears when he saw one of the photos in the book was of his mother. She had died a few years ago, and he told me that he dreamed the previous night that he would see her the next day. Because of the cost and the long walk up to the village, very few people have photographs of their own."



California, USA
December 10, 2011

Pratap in California writes:

We have something in common. I came here in the US in 1977. Stayed and stayed. Around the same time, you went to Nepal and served the people of Nepal. Thanks to Sargant Shriver and you. You went back after some 30 years. You are also true Nepali. Also, special thanks to John Wood and Room to Read organization.

Rizwan Q.
December 11, 2011

Rizwan Q. in Paksitan writes:

The things like u done in Nepal should also be done at larger scale both in Pakistan and India.

District Of Columbia, USA
December 13, 2011

Sarah in Washington, D.C. writes:

Fantastic. Glad to see the State Dpt. involved in education!

Sudeep B.
December 13, 2011

Sudeep B. in Nepal writes:

It was nice reading this piece of article. I came to know about Room to Room after reading John Woods' auto biography.

Change is a gradual process. No matter what change occurs. Thank you for being upbeat in changing the rural lives of Nepal.

Barton L.
Michigan, USA
December 13, 2011

Barton L. in Michigan writes:

The support of children's, and especially girls, education is one of the smartest and strategically important investments our government can make. Working with "on-the-ground," effective organizations like Room to Read elevates efforts into cost-effective usage of limited funds. This is the kind of program that sends the kind of messages America should do more of.

Maryland, USA
December 19, 2011

Rajendra in Maryland writes:

Wonderful project! Keep up the great work in Nepal.

Tij B.
December 19, 2011

Tij B. in Nepal writes:

Thanks to you for your work in Nepal. There were no libraries when I was a kid. It is good to see kids reading now!

December 30, 2011

Student in Nepal writes:

This is a beautiful story and beautiful message. Thank you to Miss Teas.

New York, USA
December 19, 2011

Trish in New York writes:

I am so pleased to see this blog about Room to Read. I have been following John Wood and his organization for many years and they do wonderful work. When we got married this year, we decided to ask our guests to donate to Room to Read in lieu of presents. Cheers to the State Department for supporting this organization.

Keep up the great work!

New York, USA
December 20, 2011

Ranjana in New York writes:

Thank you for this work.


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