The Change Can Start With Me - Hero of the Educational System
written by Santosh Bidari, MasterPeace Club Leader Nepal & Kristine Tauch, MasterPeace Club Leader Wiesbaden, Germany
Don't you think in Germany everyone is interested in the ongoing discussion about teachers and the school system? Don't you belong to those people who have something to say about it? Of course, we all have, since we have all spent many years of our lives in that system.
Do you believe that educationalists and teachers from Nepal and Germany could learn from each other? Let's find out!
When I first met Santosh Bidari in 2016 (on facebook!) I didn't have a clue about Nepal nor the Nepalese school system. Sure, I knew that there were this wonderful Himalayan landscapes, and that there had been some devastating earthquakes recently. I started getting to know the country through the eyes of an insider, and I must say, I found my personal hero! Santosh Bidari is one of the most adorable social activists to think of, and I am happy to call him my friend.
It was this hero who inspired me to found a MasterPeace Club in Wiesbaden in 2017 thus being connected to a global grassroots peace movement with over 40 clubs around the world. THE STORY STORE, a social business, founded in 2019 by Bledion Vladi and me, has its roots in the MasterPeace Club Wiesbaden. This is why Santosh Bidari from Nepal belongs to our Story Store family.
Santosh wrote down his story for us! Come on, let's learn about Nepal together!
Fear and doubt
During the 10 years (1993-2002) of my school life, there were barely hundred days that I went to school out of interest. Going to school felt more like an obligation than enthusiasm. I used to wonder whether I was the only one feeling that way or not. Some days, I would make up excuses like not feeling good just to avoid going to school. The main reasons were the boring lessons and the uninspiring school environment. The lack of a children-friendly, sports-friendly environment and the passive behavior of teachers made me doubt the student life. Apparently, staying idly in class, hearing but not listening to the teachers, and studying for exams just to get some good marks were the only reasons for going to school. There was no such thing as motivation to learn something at school. I used to feel caged within those four walls of the classrooms as we were not allowed to speak frankly to teachers about our problems and feelings.
I am convinced that mistakes are part of the learning process. However, back in those years, I never got a chance to learn from mistakes as I got punished systematically for making them. There was a misconception of the potential of students. They were only judged by their marks at exams and not by their capability, hard work and creativity. 90 percent of students feared their teachers and I was one of them.
In 10th grade students had to take an examination named SLC (School Leaving Certificate). Everyone used to be injected with fear of this exam as it was called the ‘iron gate’. Hence, every student’s main priority was to pass this exam. The traumatizing part was that some students attempted suicide if they failed the SLC or scored low. Iron Gate was understood by us as the Gate of Terror.
Choice and Purpose
After completing my secondary level education, I moved to the City of Dreams - Kathmandu – to study mass communication and journalism. Fortunately, I came across many people with a vision of a prosperous future. After spending some time in their company, I realized that I wasn’t the only one with negative feelings about school. However, after sharing my doubts, I immersed myself in the search for a solution to this problem. My main task was to find out what my own role should be in motivating children to go to school.
I got in touch with different social organizations where I met parents and asked them about their dreams for their children. Most of them answered that they wanted them to be engineers or doctors. It made me realize that instead of focusing on teaching towards professions for the happy few, it would be much wiser to teach the young generation to have a strong moral character and a healthy mindset as these form the basis for everything in life, independently from whatever profession the person is engaged in.
Along the way, I met some youths and asked them about their reasons for dropping out of school. The main reasons were low family income, harshness and punishment from teachers at school and not enjoying the school atmosphere. There were also some parents forcing their children to work as soon as possible so that they could generate income for their family. All this made me realize that the overall development of the Nepalese nation would have to be carried by a revolution, starting with giving every single child a good education, even in the most remote villages. It felt like my duty to bring a wave of positive change to the society.
On the 16th of November 2009, I founded a non-profit organization named ‘Peace for People’. My life took a complete new turn when, after experiencing various ups and downs in life, I found my mission in bringing joy into the lives of others and in contributing to the development of my society and my country. Right from the beginning two good friends supported me, Khaadananda Regmi and Sudeep Banset. And in 2010 our great team manager Punam Khadgi joined. We were still a small organization, but the mission kept us going. We had big dreams and took small steps. In the first 3 years we conducted activities like vocational training, events related to arts and sports in schools, and several workshops and conferences for young people.
In 2012, I got the opportunity to join a Global organization called MasterPeace, gathering the representatives from more than 40 other nations. From now on I met the international representatives on a yearly basis and shared my thoughts and ideas with them. This became a great source of inspiration for me to keep on moving forward, participating in global bootcamps and learning with other Club leaders.
During the start-up period of ‘Peace for People’ I did not have the slightest idea that it would one day officially expand to Europe, but to my great pleasure it did happen! In May 2019, ‘Peace for People France’ was created. It is a clear example of how a local initiative with great ambition for a better future can be an inspiration for others across continents. Our campaign will for sure double its impact on the target group in the next 10 years.
I still experience challenges in my personal life, due to the mentality of my country and my family putting pressure on me to go abroad and earn a lot of money in order to support them. There are more than 8 million people working abroad for a better life. Charity work is not considered a way to success. But for me it is my biggest dream, my only choice, a real mission.
Although having a regular job can bring some advantages like holidays and materialistic things, following your heart and passion brings you much more joy and deep satisfaction. Sometimes my friends asked me if I was crazy as they believe what I am engaged into is the government's responsibility. But I feel the urge of being a good citizen who takes responsibility for society and the country. I feel that the change can start with me. And every single step is so powerful.
Paving the Way to the Future
To run a small foundation is extremely challenging. We are working on a personal fundraiser basis. Fortunately, we keep on attracting new people that are willing to support us at different levels.
Our organization reached its 10th anniversary on 16th of November 2019. It makes me extremely happy and proud to see how a small organization, supported by different individuals, can bring revolutionary social changes to a traditional society.
Working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 4 – Quality Education - these are the main achievements of the last decade:
Construction of two school buildings in two different districts has been completed where students get free quality education for the coming years.
690 students are pursuing their education in the field of computer hardware and software, mechanical construction and secondary level with full scholarships. 1 951 students being provided with necessary educational materials like school uniforms, stationeries, etc. In total 7 districts and 22 school benefit directly from educational programs run by People for People.
Provided parent's bootcamps and teacher trainings, art, music and sports workshops on a regular basis in several schools.
Awareness programs like ‘Me for Gender Equality’ and vocational education for parents are continuously being held.
Since 2012, on the occasion of International Day of Peace on 21st of September, events like awareness campaigns, cultural programs, sports, art and dance competitions have been successfully organized.
For the last 3 years, we have been organizing a Peace Walk in the Thakre, Galchhi and Gajuri municipality of Dhading district. A total of 54 foreign participants and 54 Nepalese have walked together for 18 days. The walk has boosted tourism by exposing the beauty of local nature and the cultural life in Nepal. But the main purpose of the Peace Walk is a personal leadership development, far from the usual tourist sights. It is a life-changing experience!
Even though there are already some government efforts on the issues discussed, these are not enough to bring about a drastic change in the education sector. That is why we will continue to pursue our mission and have ambitious plans for the coming decade by:
providing life skills training and storytelling programs to at least 100 000 students in the next ten years,
establishing a ‘Teacher’s Hub’ for teachers in order to update them on new techniques in teaching,
facilitating an ‘Exchange Program’ for teachers and students, distributing scholarships to underprivileged students of rural areas,
train youths and support them choosing entrepreneurship as a model for their living,
introducing different techniques and technologies in schools,
applying the ‘Play, learn and grow together’ concept as a core strategy of teaching,
launching various programs to decrease the intellectual and communication gap between students, teachers and parents,
and acting as a guide and a moderator for ensuring overall sustainable development in education.
Wow! Does that sound like a good plan?
I met my hero Santosh in person in 2017, attending my first global bootcamp. His sense of humour, his authentic and down-to-earth spirituality and his crazy passion and drive to improve the Nepalese educational system moved me deeply. We met again in 2019, exchanged on everything that MasterPeace Club leaders need to talk about (passion, challenges, dreams, jokes, crazy ideas, stories of humanity...) and forged out a bold plan:
What about meeting in Germany at the MasterPeace Festival 2020? MasterPeace Wiesbaden sets up the stage and Santosh comes to share his story on it.
Dear reader, I would just love you to get to know my hero-friend. He will make you cry, laugh and love – promise!
In fact, Santosh is planning a self-educating tour to France, the Netherlands and Finland this year and it is very likely that he comes to Germany too. And then he can tell us more about how to make this happen: THE CHANGE CAN START WITH ME.
If you want to support us on this plan, please contact Kristine at firstname.lastname@example.org (phone: +49 178 457 93 36). The kind of support we are looking for is: Invitations to schools and classrooms for an exchange about quality education, event locations to share Santosh's story with an interested audience, financial support to cover travel expenses.