My academic journey began at the age of five when I was admitted to the nearest government school which was a two-hour walk from my leaky hut. Studying in non-native language was challenging, however, in the early days. Nonetheless, through hard work and dedication I fared well in my classes.
Growing up in a residential national school constituting diverse ethnic groups from all 75 districts in Nepal was an extraordinary feat and, of course, life changing opportunity. I was exposed to varied cultures and customs that students represented at the school. I grew up independent though; taking decisions on whether to study or play especially during the holidays and weekends. Day-to-day chores such as cleaning, gardening, maintaining personal hygiene allowed to understanding personal duties and responsibilities. I learnt to take responsibilities and in the process developed different leadership skills. Over the years, I was assigned different leadership positions and duties at school. For instance, I was the Vice-President of the health and fitness club, where I had to organize different programs, write proposals, raise funds, and conduct various health-related events on special occasions. Team work, collaborations with other clubs within and outside the school, coordinating and managing the club members were among the major tasks that I successfully performed as a leader of the team.
After completion of my Cambridge University’s Advanced Level examination, I left the school to further my Undergraduate education. It was a turning point in my life. I had to live alone in the capital city, Kathmandu. I had to work hard to earn my living- making enough for buying groceries and paying for my small room. I continued my Undergraduate education concurrently working for a job. Finding a job has remained a Herculean task in Nepal. However, I managed to find a job at an organization working to impart education for underprivileged children and worked as a life skills teacher overseeing overall activities of the students. During my three years of Undergraduate education in Nepal, I worked for different organizations, all related to child care and development. Working as a teacher at child care homes, my duties were to promote underprivileged children education. Additionally, I had privilege to coordinate earthquake reconstruction works with local organizations and also worked as a social worker for juvenile justice system.
After my undergraduate education, I started to realize that I needed to give back to my community. I also wanted to help and support many children just like me who are unprivileged and still deprived of basic education in this twenty first century which boasts of science and technological advancements and putting humans in Mars. To this end, I formed a group of likeminded people who are passionate and poised to volunteer for the upliftment of our community via implementing developmental programs in the community. With my leadership, we developed “One Sponsor One Child” project to support the education of those needy and underprivileged children. Currently, there are 14 children under this program funded by sponsors and are studying in residential boarding schools.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use it to change the world” said Nelson Mandela. Understanding the difference that education can bring in the society, I along with my team of 11 members developed a livestock entrepreneurship program. As a team leader, I was successful in supporting 50 households to improve their living standards.
In addition, I worked day and night during the time of crisis and emergency management when the earthquake measuring 7.8 Ritcher scale struck Nepal in April 2015. Through the funds provided by the Society of Ex-Budhanilkantha Students (SEBS)-North America, I carried out an immediate relief work for the earthquake victims in the community. The program benefited 600 individual members directly. Community people were happy to receive immediate support which brought a sign of relief for them. Recognizing my service toward the community in need, I was awarded “Outstanding work” during the time of crisis by SEBS-North America. Working at the grass-root level with the community, learning and growing with them, and working for them were my biggest strengths. While at work, I developed effective communication skills dealing with local people and assessing their problems at hand. I learnt to adjust in difficult situation during the time of emergency response helping others. I also learnt to develop projects, write proposals, make plans, budgeting skills, and implement what I have learnt for the good of others. What I have grown into today is a more independent individual who cares for those in need and dreams of more just and equitable society.
There are significant differences between the education system in Nepal and here in the UK. Postgraduate courses in the UK mandate students develop critical thinking and analytic skills. The role of lecturers and professors is not to teach how to do it but to show just the way of doing it. Whereas learning and teaching techniques in Nepal have mostly been rote learning whereby students memorize sentence-by-sentence by repetition. Although the postgraduate life here is a bit challenging, the course structure and the teaching concepts have helped me develop problem solving skills, working both independently and as a team player, and develop communicating skills (in writing, and via oral and poster presentations, and public speaking). Meeting deadlines, time management and prioritizing activities are also areas that I have been improving.
Lok Raj Pokhrel