The concept of a comprehensive parents-teacher meeting is still very rare in Nepal, especially in government and community schools in the villages. Schools that do follow this practice tend do it in a more casual fashion, where parents drop by the school to pick up their child’s report card and discuss his/her grade and performance. A student usually gets a 5 minute session, which is hardly enough time for parents to fully understand what is being taught and how their children are doing in school.

in order for a child to be a successful student, they need to be supported both at school and at home…

Rukmini Foundation (RF) firmly believes that in order for a child to be a successful student, they need to be supported both at school and at home. With this in mind, our Nepal team is attempting to increase parent’s engagement in the education of our scholars. This feat is more challenging that one may think, as it can’t be achieved by simply making an appointment and asking the parents to come to school. In areas we work in, parents face many challenges in making time to get to schools to discuss their children’s education due to their responsibilities at home and work. Even if they had time and the ability to get to school, there is a belief among many that the responsibility of educating the kids is on the school, and not on the parents. Finally, even for those who are wanting to get more involved there are other factors that affect their engagement. Sometimes it is the lack of communication between the parents and their child, sometimes it’s the unwillingness of students to share their progress at home, and sometimes there is the language barrier that hinders the parent understanding report cards that are written in English or even in Nepali for those that have a difficult time reading because they did not finish school themselves.

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Rukmini Scholars and their family members sit and listen intently during the Parents-teachers-students conference

Understanding the need to involve more parents, our team in Nepal conducted a parent / teacher / student conference on September 18th, where we coordinated with teachers from five different partner schools and invited parents of all scholars. The meeting was a tremendous success, as parents of 32 scholars participated in the program, which was a great response rate. The meeting was also attended not only by teachers but also the headmasters of each of the 5 partner schools. The meeting itself was a full day session, where the parents were given details on what their daughters were being taught in school, the additional programs offered by Rukmini Foundation, and individual sessions where the teachers talked about the progress of each of the students.

This interaction allowed the parents to express their thoughts and concerns about their child’s academic life. Asmita Sunuwar’s mother said that often times she is unaware of her daughter even getting a report card and “the times Asmita shows me her report card…I cannot read it.” Hearing this, the headmasters realized the need to make sure report cards are made available in both English and Nepali. In many cases, the team came to the realization that some scholars pretended to lose their report cards when they obtained bad results. “Most of the time, when I ask, my daughter says she lost the mark sheet. She gets very unhappy if I visit her school and talk to the principal. If I do so, she will argue with me.”, said Laxmi Poudel’s mother. It was clear that the team needed to implement a better monitoring system and ensure that the parents are being informed about their daughter’s performances, especially if there are signs of academic trouble. They also needed to address the need for students to be more open and honest with their family members. A majority of the parents had a very positive feedback towards this parents-teachers conference. “I am very thankful for all the help Rukmini Foundation has done for Tsultrim (scholar),” said Sangay Palmo (Tsultrim’s aunt), “I am also very happy that Foundation takes the big responsibility of getting better performance from scholars, and they care so much.”

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An impressive turnout at the conference, where 32 students, their parents, teachers and headmasters participated

For many of the scholars, this type of meeting can be uncomfortable because they may feel they are being “judged” in front of their parents and teachers. However, we made it a point to show them how much all of us care about their education, and what efforts we will all go to ensure that they succeed in school. Furthermore, this process of reflection on their own performance has allowed them to feel a greater sense of responsibility towards their academic life. Scholars who needed to improve their grades voiced a renewed sense of commitment to create better study habits and plans for themselves. This meeting had the type of response for everyone from teachers to parents to students. We as a team also know that we can do more to help these girls succeed, and we are committed to do so. We will look to hold more of these sessions to hopefully demonstrate progress in all areas of education in the future.

Priti

 

About Priti Bhattarai

With a Masters from London School of Economics in NGOs and Development, along with courses in Social Policy and Gender and Development, Priti brings with her the experience of both policy and development. She was born in Nepal, brought up in Japan, and has lived in England for eight years. Before moving to the United States, she went back to Nepal and worked on issues concerning Education for All and Gender Equality. Her work entailed creating awareness amongst the communities in rural Nepal on issues concerning both health and education, whilst striving for change in the country’s education policy. She recently moved to the Untied States and has become part of the Rukmini Foundation. With her previous experience working in Nepal, she has a great understanding of Rukmini Foundation’s mission and vision and will chair the Nepal Team Committee to work closely with our team on the ground to ensure progress, productivity and help forge new relationship with other entities in Nepal.

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