Teaching in Nepal: No Salary But Great Rewards

Teaching in Nepal: No Salary But Great Rewards
By Mary Ann Davis
Reprinted by permission from Transitions Abroad Magazine

Thanks in large part to the recent burst of tourism, the Nepalese people — whose average income remains at less than $1 per day in the cities and far less in the villages — have now seen the evidence of the West’s enormous wealth. They are increasingly convinced that English is the language necessary for sharing it, and volunteer English teachers are warmly welcomed in many areas of Nepal.

Despite the lack of salary, the Nepalese offer the volunteer bountiful rewards.

When I worked as an editor and writer for non-govermental organizations, my Nepalese hosts sent small meals to my desk throughout the day. Apples from the tree outside my office window, peeled and sliced as preferred by “the bideshi” (foreigners), were graciously offered two or three times each morning.

I also volunteered for families as a private tutor, learning about family life and improving my own knowledge of the language. In return, I accepted delicious meals and tea, and occasionally cabfare.

In Kathmandu, a friend asked me to volunteer-teach in his private elementary school. All the lessons were in English, but practice in conversation had been quite limited and the principal was happy to have a native English speaker on the staff. Nepalis are, unfortunately, quite shy about speaking, especially with foreign visitors. The girls and women are apt to fall into bouts of giggling when a foreigner begins to speak.

An early morning outdoor yoga class, temporarily replacing phys ed, was a great way to break the ice and start friendships. During the instruction, the children naturally learned English names for parts of the body. In the afternoons, we played games, such as pat-a-cake and London Bridge, and recited poems. I imitated their teachers’ loud, rhythmically repeated sentences, so the children would have continuity in their lessons.

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In order that the teachers also benefit from a native English-speaker’s presence, we all met in their lounge each day. They gave me details about the special holiday foods–how they are prepared and the significance of each day’s rituals. They also described their lives as professional women for example, how they taught in schools near the homes so they would not have to ride in buses with men who were not of their families.

Though there are many opportunities to volunteer teach in elementary schools, adult learning institutes are another option for foreigners. Adult learning institutes are important in Kathmandu for preparing high school graduates for careers. When adult students were also shy about speaking, I followed the advice of an ESL teacher and I took stacks of family photos to the first few classes. Family life is important in Nepal, and as we looked at the photos our differences began to fall away.

The adult students, like the parents of schoolchildren, were extremely grateful that I was teaching in their school. Other Western teachers report the same warm reception. Some Nepalese even consider teachers to be visiting deities. The students rose when I entered or left the classroom, and were rapt and silent throughout class. Although the classroom was cramped and rather dirty, the students acted with dignity and gratitude; they felt themselves very fortunate to be able to attend schools. And I felt fortunate to have been their teacher, even briefly.

Volunteer teaching opportunities are available for long and short-term. In villages, contact the school itself or a member of the community. Ask the school for information about visa requirements if you are planning a long-term stint, and keep up to date through your embassy and through Nepalese Immigration in Kathmandu. Consult the newspapers for schools listing openings and call them. Also check the volunteer opportunities on bulletin boards.Himalayan Explorers ClubKathmandu
Tel: 977-1-250646

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Offers Nepalese language classes, homestay program, ecological and trekking information. Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center
Tel: 977-1-221875
Fax: 977-1-251409


HBMC also offers classes in healing arts, yoga, etc.

Kopan Monastery
outside Kathmandu-Baudhanath
Tel: 977-1-481268
fax: 977-1-481267/481382


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