Teaching English in Nepal
Volunteering at a Tibetan Monastery and Junior High School
As part of a year-long traveling experience, my fiance and I found ourselves in the Himalayan Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. Eager to experience the culture more deeply than one would merely as a tourist, we took up volunteer positions teaching English in the small town of Pharping, just outside Kathmandu, Nepal.
We had applied through an online organization a month before, Idealist.org, which matches potential volunteers with positions across the world. Having just traveled from Tibet, my fiance and I were very interested in helping out the constantly growing Tibetan refugee population. Since the Chinese invasion of Tibet from 1949-1951, there have been thousands of Tibetan refugees, and many of these live in refugee camps in the neighboring countries of India and Nepal.
After a 3-day language immersion orientation in Kathmandu, we were set up with a teaching position in the beautiful small village of Pharping, high in the hills above the bustling capital. From our guest house, we had a sweeping view of the Himalayas which lay in the distance. My fiance and I taught in two schools: Junkiri English School, a local junior high school, and Manjushri Di-Chen Buddhist Learning Center, a Tibetan monastery for children of Tibetan refugees. Both schools were very flexible and allowed us to plan our own schedules and teach our own lesson plans. It was completely left up to our own creativity in terms of what we taught and how we taught the English lessons.
Our students were wonderful. Junkiri English school consisted of a few mangy dark classrooms with no electricity and only a black board. We taught four classes, two or three times a week, from the fourth to seventh grade. The students possessed only old textbooks, but we played English games and activities in addition to learning from the textbooks in order to make the classroom a more exciting place to learn. We focused on expanding their vocabulary and on conversational English. Our Nepalese students had an excellent grasp of the English language, were bright, cheerful, eager to learn, and hardworking. The students welcomed us immediately as their teachers and eagerly participated in the classroom.
At the Tibetan monastery we taught the kindergarten class, which included boys aged 6 to 14 years old. The students were new to the monastery so they spoke little to no English. The boys were high in energy and eager to learn, but without restraints they could get out of control. Even though they were training to become Tibetan Buddhist monks, the "little monks" as we called them would cheat at English games if permitted to do so. In one game we had them running back and forth in the schoolyard trying to grab the relevant English flashcards for their team. The whole game soon disintegrated into chaos. The little monks would grab any card they wanted when we were not looking. Boys will be boys, whether they be Tibetan monks or Western school children.
We taught only a month and a half in Nepal, but it opened our eyes to a whole different teaching experience. For a short time, we were allowed into the the lives of these vibrant Nepalese and Tibetan children.
Finding a volunteer position is easy in Nepal because most schools have a shortage of available teachers. Schools will welcome any native English speaker no matter how long you have to volunteer. Of course, those who take longer positions are preferred as the students need a consistent relationship with their teachers. There are countless opportunities to volunteer in Nepal that may be found through an online search. Be aware that many of the volunteer programs arranged from home can be more costly than those arranged while in Nepal. Many volunteer placements do not require advanced planning, and often no prior teaching experience is necessary.