Volunteer Spotlight: Srikaran Masabathula

Srikaran Masabathula is our Earthquake relief volunteer from Knox College, Illinois.

During his second year at Knox, he was looking to make a positive difference and decided to head to Nepal to support OLE Nepal with their earthquake relief efforts in the severely destructed area.

Following is the experience shared by Srikaran on his visit to Nepal.

volunteers

Srikaran Masabathula [left]

“Hello, this is Srikaran Masabathula and I would like to thank OLE Nepal for giving me and my good friend Matt Surprenant the opportunity to assist in the earthquake relief efforts. When the earthquake hit Nepal, along with a few of my Nepali friends at Knox, we were sleeping peacefully completely unaware of the devastation going on on our planet. The next morning western media didn’t really give it too much coverage and it tried to undersell the devastation. However, my Nepali friends were very quick to post the personal destruction that their families and friends had experienced overnight. The pictures shared, stories told, were absolutely heartbreaking. That is when it really hit us that our friends, the ones we have studied and played with, may not have a home to go back to. Their towns and houses were destroyed and they had to be away from it all, not even with the comfort of their family by them. We started looking for volunteer opportunities when we found out about OLE Nepal through Ms. Manisha Pradhananga, an economics professor at our college who helped us greatly also in acquiring funding for our trip to Nepal.

eq

Destruction caused by Earthquake in Gorkha

I landed in Nepal completely amazed at the beauty of the place and the sense of togetherness among the people. My first day at OLE, I loved the way the office worked. Everyone at the office was very closely knitted and it seemed more like a big family working together for a great cause – enhancing the quality of education through the integration of technology in rural classrooms. The first week at office, I got to know a lot about the activities that OLE was involved in and also learnt how to work on the XO laptops which were rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. OLE Nepal had a very popular program called E-Paath where they designed and developed educational contents with various features of technology such as audio, images, animation and text to be built into the laptops with their team of graphic designers and software programmers. OLE has already designed over 500 lessons and activities for students of classes 2 through 7 in the subjects of Science, Mathematics, English and Nepali which were in complete accordance with the national curricula. Another great programme of OLE is E-Pustakalaya is an open digital library which provides free access to over 7000 full text documents, books, educational videos, audio books, learning software, reference materials.

hike

The next week we travelled to Gorkha with a team of two other people Ms. Sofila Vaidya and Mr. Ganesh Ghimire to survey schools that were destroyed in the series of massive earthquakes that struck Nepal towards the end of April and early May. We hiked across 8-9 villages in the Gorkha region through a period of 5 days to visit schools in the vicinity and talk to the management of the schools and assessing the needs of the schools that would benefit from the interactive learning XO laptops. We surveyed about 7-8 schools and we were to pick 5 schools on the criteria of availability of electricity, student size, teacher qualifications and community involvement. Some of the schools were completely destroyed by the earthquakes and classes were temporarily being conducted in the thatched huts while a new building was being constructed nearby.

srikaran with kids

 

With the work being done by OLE Nepal, I definitely see a bright future for the kids studying and it also is a great way to keep their mind away from the horrific earthquake. I am forever grateful to get the opportunity to work for such an incredible organization and glad we got to work for a great cause. My sincere thanks to Mr. Rabi Karmacharya, the director of OLE Nepal and the rest of the team, our Professor Ms. Manisha Pradhananga for all her continued support and help in getting us the funding. Without the Richter grant and Stellyes funding, the trip could have never been possible. Special thanks to the Stellyes sisters and the Vovis center and last but not the least, Knox College.”

 

Technology in Nepal’s classrooms: Using impact evaluation as a learning device

Quentin

Re-posting a blog by Quentin Wodon, a lead economist at the World Bank expressing his understanding and perspectives gained from the presentation by Mr. Rabi Karmacharya in a seminar organized by The World Bank Group in Washington D.C. about OLE Nepal’s successes and challenges in implementing laptop-based integrated learning initiative programs from pilot phases to scaling up.

students with laptops

“Impact evaluations are key to how we think about development. Pilot programs suggesting statistically significant impacts are hailed as breakthroughs and as candidates for scaling up. Programs without such clear impact tend to be looked down upon and may be terminated. This may not be warranted.  A primary function of impact evaluations should be to improve existing programs, especially in fields where evidence of positive impacts remains scarce. The experience of OLE Nepal, which is part of the OLE network and aims to improve learning and teaching through technology, is instructive in this regard.

Last week, Rabi Karmacharya shared his experience at OLE Nepal at a  seminar co-sponsored by the World Bank, the Global Partnership for Education and the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, a supporter of Rotary Club of Kathmandu Mid Town in expanding OLE Nepal’s programs. After a successful career in enginerring and technology in California, he launched OLE Nepal in 2007. Now a social entrepreneur, Rabi wants to use technology to transform the way children learn through engagement, exploration and experimentation.

OLE Nepal has achieved quite a bit over the last eight years: deploying 5,000+ laptops in 100+ schools, training 600+ teachers on integrating ICT in the classroom teaching-learning process, developing 600+ learning modules for use by teachers, and creating a digital library with 6000+ books and other items used in schools and community libraries. Its ultimate objective is to help transform and improve Nepal’s education system with technology, working closely with the Ministry of Education and other partners.

What I found most interesting about Rabi’s presentation is how OLE Nepal – as well as donors that support the NGO such as the World Food Program, responded to an evaluation of its programs in 2009-11. The evaluation used a quasi-experimental design: English and mathematics tests administered to students, with collection of additional data through student, teacher and household surveys.

The results were disappointing, with no effect on student test scores even though both teachers and students reported liking the digital contents and finding them useful. The results contradicted field observations and other evidence from teachers and students on the fact that the program was making a difference.

Several factors may have led to an apparent lack of impact on student learning, according to Rabi. First, the program had been implemented only for a relatively short period of time, and improving student learning takes time. Second, it turned out that not all teachers reported to the one-week intensive training session that was held before launching the program, which may have decreased overall impacts in the schools that benefitted from the program. Third, some teachers may not have used as the available digital resources as much as expected due to the increase in workload that this entailed. Fourth, after the initial training, the support provided to teachers was limited. Fifth, it could be that the digital content, while following the curriculum taught in school, was too difficult for students to grasp.

These and a number of  factors (including questions about variations in exam difficulty between the baseline and endline tests in the evaluation, and the possibility that some students spent more time on games available through the digital libraries rather than on study for examinations) may have led to the results.

What is important is that the evaluation did not lead to the demise of the program. Witnessing firsthand the changes in classroom dynamic and student engagement brought about by the program, donors continued to fund the NGO, which has been able to grow with support from the World Food Program, the Embassies of Denmark and Finland, and most recently the Air Asia Foundation.

In response to the evaluation, OLE Nepal introduced a number improvements in its programs:

  • It now promotes a shared model between grades for a more effective use of laptops and digital resources by schools and teachers;
  • The use of resources by students is better supervised and teachers receive more extensive support after the initial one-week training.  In addition, a volunteers program is available  for additional support;
  • The educational contents have been revised  to follow the curriculum even more closely; and
  • More emphasis will be put on enhancing the ability of students to read in early grades, since this is a prerequisite for them to be able to learn subsequently and use digital resources effectively.

OLE Nepal’s experience is a great lesson in social entrepreneurship, humility, and resilience from an innovative NGO that strives to help teachers and students harness the power of technology in the classroom.”

This blog has been retrieved from blogs.worldbank.org/education

Thanking our friend Anil

Our friend Anil has recently completed the grueling NYC Triathlon for OLE Nepal.

The Panasonic NYC Triathlon which was held in New York City on July 19th, 2015 saw the presence of many enthusiastic participants who ran, swam and cycled. Among them was our friend Anil who successfully completed the Triathlon with flying colors.

While finishing the Triathlon was his aim, his inner motive was to support a good cause. He generously supported OLE Nepal’s campaign to rebuild schools in the earthquake affected areas. Many people cheered up for his courage and determination. Through this event, he was also successful in involving many people from his community in this campaign. His active role in spreading a word on our campaign indeed helped us gain many generous supporters.

“I have decided to top off my quest for a physically fit heart by using it as an opportunity to help a charity that has made significant difference in the lives of rural Nepalis by providing them with education that is intrinsically entwined with technology.”

OLE Nepal family would like to heartily thank and congratulate Anil for his hard work and dedication.

Photo courtesy: Mr. Sonam Ukyab

ready to swim

Anil getting ready to dive into Hudson River in New York

Swimming in hudson river

Crossing the Hudson River

cycling

Transitioning from swimming to cycling!

running

Transitioning from cycling to running

nepal flag

Almost there!  Proudly flying and waving the flag of Nepal

with the medals

After finishing the Triathlon… Smiling away with the medal

amazing couple

Amazing team play

nepali group

Thank you all the Nepali community members for coming out and supporting our campaign. You guys rock!!

Report from Schools in Western Gorkha

I got the opportunity to travel to earthquake affected areas in Gorkha during the last week of June alongside a team from Gorkha Foundation. They had gone there to start building a high school in Nepane, Kearbari VDC of the district. My intention was to gather first hand information of the damages caused by the two major earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, and to find out how communities had been coping with the destructions caused by the disaster. I was particularly keen on learning how schools were managing in temporary learning shelters, and what kind of help they needed both in the short and long terms.

We traveled up the western part of Gorkha, along its border with Lamjung district, and visited twelve schools and met with headteachers from additional three schools in Chopprak, Kerabari, Simjung, Muchhok, Jaubari, Hansapur, Kharibot VDCs. Every single one of the schools had extensive damages, with most of the buildings completely destroyed by the strong tremors. Standing in front of the obliterated school buildings, it struck me how fortunate we were that the earthquake occurred on a Saturday when all the schools were closed. While schools were able to salvage few desks and benches, other equipments including computers were not spared when the walls caved in. Out of the 23 schools in the district where OLE Nepal had established digital libraries, the library servers and machines were safe in about half of the schools.

Amidst the ruins and destruction, there were a number of positive and encouraging findings. Every school that we visited had already built temporary learning shelters with whatever means and resources they could find, and classes were underway even in the sub-optimal conditions. While some of the schools have used locally available bamboo and wood to build the structures and have used hay for roofing, others have used corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) sheets that they had received from various sources. Few schools have also used large heavy-duty tents provided to them by donors. Many schools have also reused the CGI sheets from demolished buildings to construct the temporary shelters. Most schools reported attendance at above 75%.

Temporary Classrooms

Classrooms under tents

Makeshift classroom

Class in session

The schools did not wait for donors or government to come build the shelters for them. Each school received Rs. 25,000 per classroom from the District Education Office (DEO) to help clear the debris and build the shelter, and a notice that they must start classes by a mid-June. Local communities, parents, and teachers got together to help build the shelters, while in some schools local youth volunteers came to help. This was an example of the resilience of the local communities, and clearly demonstrated the high priority they placed on their children’s education, especially in light of the fact that many families did not have a proper place to live in.

Makeshift classroom

Temporary home

Temporary classrooms using old and new CGI sheets

Temporary classrooms built with recovered CGI sheets

Another interesting observation was that one building design that withstood the earthquake test was one that the government had been promoting for about a decade. The two-room truss structure designed with assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was found standing in all the schools we visited even when the adjacent structures were completely obliterated. The walls that were built using stones and mud had come down, but the truss system and roof were left intact. In one school where the wall was built using stone and cement around the truss structure, the building got a green sticker from the inspector, allowing the school to run classes in the building, whereas all the other buildings in the school got red stickers. Future building design for schools should definitely take this fact into consideration, with modifications on the walls to make them safer and stronger.

Truss structure intact but walls have fallen

Truss building with green sticker

The school headteachers and community leaders showed interest in moving on from temporary shelters to build permanent structures. At the end of my visit, I met with the Chief at the DEO, Mr. Hari Aryal, in Gorkha Bazaar, and discussed the DEO’s plans for reconstructing schools. He said that the DEO is expecting approved designs from the Ministry of Education by July end, after which schools can start the building process.

Visit to Gorkha

Another crucial task was completed with assessment of the most affected area, Gorkha district. Our team was there last week. We did a thorough assessment of the schools which were severely damaged by the earthquake. After spending almost a week in different places of Gorkha, we came across many schools which were in no position to run their regular classes. Many schools require rebuilding and reconstruction. After scanning through the affected areas in need basis, OLE Nepal team is planning to reconstruct five schools in Gorkha district with generous support from our friends at AirAsia Foundation and from local and international donors. Along with rebuilding of the schools, OLE Nepal will specially focus on providing learning resources to the students through an innovative tool called XO laptop.

We will be sharing detailed information about the relief project soon. Check out some photos taken during the visit:

building

Temporary classrooms

A destroyed house

A destroyed house

Students play in front of the temporary construction

Students playing in front of the construction area

Classrooms under the tents

Classrooms under the tents

Collection of rubble

Collection of rubble

Inspecting the temporary classes

Inspecting the temporary classrooms

A teacher runs his class in a temporary classrooms.

A teacher runs his class in a temporary shelter

A child looks through a curtain while a teacher runs her class.

A child looks through a curtain while a teacher is teaching

Destructed classroom building. It happens to be grade 5 classroom

Destructed classroom building. It happens to be of grade 5

Destroyed school premises

Destroyed school premises

Affected neighborhood

Affected neighborhood

Collapsed houses

Collapsed houses

Only thing remaining is the chair

Only thing remaining is the chair

A room fully covered with rubble

A classroom fully covered with rubble

Finding calmness in the center of devastation

Tundikhel, an only vast open space in between the city, is now filled with families who lost their homes in the recent earthquake. As we drive, walk or ride pass through the lanes alongside Tundikhel, we can see numerous tents – some donated by China and some made locally by the sufferers. When OLE Nepal team visited the ‘refugee camp like place’ it was heart wrenching to see people in need of necessities required for survival. Many organizations from various backgrounds provided immediate relief effort, such as food, water, shelter, sanitation, etc.

Amidst all the chaos, we at OLE Nepal are particularly concerned about the welfare of thousands of children who have been affected in more ways than one – distressed, displaced and completely traumatized by the scenes of devastations all around them. As we try to rehabilitate communities, it is utterly important to pay special attention to the emotional and physical well-being of these children. Along with their physical safety, their psychological security needed to be duly addressed as well.

With so many schools destroyed, and communities displaced, many children are deprived of education and will be for months, if not years. In this critical time, it is important to give children the space where they can enjoy their time in quality learning and exploring.

Like our previous relief efforts in Kirtipur, Khokana and Bungamati, OLE Nepal is now providing relief to the children at Tundikhel. Following are the photos taken during the first day of our relief effort.

Woman washing her clothes in a unbearable heat.
Woman washing her clothes in an unbearable heat.

A child playing around his tent.
A child playing around his tent.

CFS
Child Friendly Space at Tundikhel.

Children singing their hearts out.
Children singing their hearts out.

Expressing themselves through art.
Expressing themselves through art.

Kids busy in various activities.
Kids busy in various activities.

Learning through a new tool.
Learning through a new tool.

Peter helping out kids in using the laptop.
Peter helping out kids in using the XO Laptops.

Focused and deligent
Focused and diligent.

Many kids showed up.
Many kids showed up at the center.

Working in groups.
Working in groups.

Enjoying the moment.
Enjoying the moment.

Continuing our fruitful effort @ Kirtipur

OLE Nepal’s Earthquake Relief Effort has been sprouting positive results in both Child Friendly Spaces of Kirtipur and Khokana/Bungamati. Our volunteers has been traveling everyday to provide relief for children by engaging them in interactive activities from our education tool. Following are some photos taken during one of the sessions at Kirtipur.

kids
Smiling for the camera.

kids
“I like parts of plants activities of E-Paath.”

kids
Kids exploring different activities on their laptop.

creating her own artwork
Creating her own art.

i love e-paath
“I love E-Paath.”

playful
Covered hall at this CFS allows students to let themselves free.

kids
Kids definitely got some refreshment after using the laptops.

we love watermelons
We love watermelon.

group picture with kids
Group picture with kids at CFS in Navajyoti.

group picture
Group picture with kids at CFS in Janasewa.