“Educating the community, along with the students, was the reason I became a teacher. Seeing the people of the same community become advocates to literacy truly makes me feel I’ve done justice by my service.”
Prem Bahadur is an English teacher at Shri Bhanu Secondary School in Tanahu. The government secondary school was formerly a primary school where Prem was a Principal. During his time as Principal, the school saw significant improvements in the quality of education, lower dropout rates, higher pass rates and increased trust between parents, children and the school management committee.
Selfless commitments towards his work
Most of the students in the school where Prem works come from marginalized communities. Before the local school expanded to a secondary education level, the rate of children attending the school from marginalized communities was very low. Many of them did not pursue higher education after completing primary level due to several challenges, such as lack of awareness and economic status. Families faced poor economic conditions, which meant travelling long distances on foot to secondary school. Discouraged by this, most parents started sending their children abroad to countries in the gulf to work in difficult and dirty jobs to earn money for the family.
Prem was determined to change this trend. He realised that if the same school could provide primary and secondary education, it would be easier for the children to continue their studies. He started the process by having discussions with both the teachers and parents and slowly but surely it came to life. However, as the school became a mix of primary and secondary, Prem had to give up his position as Principal. Although he was a fitting candidate to be the leader of this new school, he selflessly chose to remain a teacher. His efforts soon showed a reduced rate for dropout, which was a result appreciated and recognised by the school management committee.
Prem has been more than just an English teacher in his community. Over the past 30 years he has committed himself to his Darai Community, to improve the literacy rate, even though it meant passing up more financially lucrative opportunities. He has run a door-to-door campaign and created women groups to raise awareness on the importance of education within the community.
In school, he goes beyond his role of teaching English to work on the holistic development of the children and conducts regular meetings with the guardians about their children’s wellbeing. He considers every child as his own and is equally concerned about the past students of the school. Both the children and the parents comfortably share their concerns, big and small, with Prem. This has resulted in almost 100% of the children in the Darai community going to school and therefore increased the literacy rate in the community.
Supporting the incapable
Prem believes that no child should be deprived of education. During his tenure, he has successfully brought back many students who were forced to drop out of school due to challenges such as their economic conditions and has personally supported them to complete at least the school level certificate known as SEE. For instance, when Krishna Thapa, a former grade nine student who had contracted a chronic illness, was able to sit in a wheelchair after her treatment, she showed her desire to study even though she still could not physically go to school. When Prem found out about this, he ensured that Krishna could be home schooled and sit for her exams later. By the time Krishna reached 10th grade, she was able to attend school in a rented wheelchair. So, Prem helped build a wheelchair ramp to his classroom. Krishna has now completed her SEE exam and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in management.
Due to Prem’s efforts, many children in the community have stepped into a school for the first time. He wanted to enhance the life of the community, and the school. He wants every child in the community to get formal education no matter what the challenges. Many of his students are now contributing to society as doctors, engineers and NGO workers.