66. A case against Nepali journalists – Part IV

The Rape of Youth

I always cringe at the way ‘youth’ is used in our Nepali English newspapers. I’m talking about the word youth, by the way. Whenever I see it being used to mean an individual, I suffer a mild kidney failure. I don’t know how to explain it but the meaning of ‘youth’ as ‘the time in someone’s life when one was young’ has permanently remained stuck in my head. Or, as ‘a mass of young people in general’ is what I imagine when I think of the word youth.

And, thus I can never align my brain to the meaning of youth as prescribed by our Nepali newspapers – the meaning as a singular form, explicitly used to denote a young man or a boy. And, be alarmed, this young man or a boy is usually associated with crime, violence or accident. Just a google search with the keywords ‘kathmandu post youth’ brings these results confirming the widespread (mis)use of the word. Interestingly, in Nepali newspapers, youth is rarely a girl.

Youth dies in police custody…
A youth has allegedly thrown acid on the face of an 18-year-old girl…
Youth dies in a bike accident…
Local youth murdered…
Youth Shot Dead in Raxaul…
Remains of the missing youth recovered…
Raju Prajapati, an 18-year-old youth of Birgunj in Parsa who was abducted six months ago…

This is the reason why I always cringe with disgust when I see youth in the headline.

It is not supposed to be this way. Youth is such a poetic word. ‘Youth dies in police custody’ sounds like the title of a poem written by a revolutionary. Youth is such a positive word. Youth suggests a generation. Youth is beyond gender. Youth power. Youth association. Youth movement. Youth style. Youth culture. Youth anthem. But youth is so much beyond a boy who throws acid on a girl’s face (poor girl), youth is so much beyond a man who dies in a bike accident (poor guy).


(A quick check for confirmation. I googled ‘BBC news youth’ and ‘CNN news youth’, also did some collocation searches, alas, their use of youth was quite traditional.)

What I suggest:

Boy dies in a bike accident…
Remains of the missing teenager recovered…
A young man allegedly throws acid on a girl…

Don’t they look simple and clear enough to understand !

65. Teaching is an Easy Job

Teaching is easy: Perception of Teaching Profession in Nepal

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Since I’m also in the management committee of the school, I have to regularly attend both formal meetings and informal chitchats with parents. On one of such chitchats, a guardian of a student asked me if there was any vacancy for teaching post. And she added that there’s a daughter of her sister who has just completed plus-2 and isn’t doing anything these days. So instead of ‘wasting her time’ until she joins her Bachelor’s, it’s better she (the daughter) does some teaching to utilize the time. That way, she can keep herself ‘engaged’ and earn some pocket money as well. usle English medium ma padheko ho, English subjects ta sajilai padhauna sakcha – and, that she can teach English very easily.

Well, that was not the first time that I had to face such request. And each time, I had to lie to them saying that I would let them know if we needed any new teachers. I’m sure many school principals and management get similar requests frequently. And I’m sure many people in our country hold such view – that teaching is a way to keep oneself ‘engaged’ until you find a better or high paying job. It’s just to hang around for a time being.

Not surprisingly, my own mom holds such opinion – that teaching, especially in schools, is just a ‘time pass’ activity. In addition to that, she believes that teaching job is specifically made for females and housewives. In fact, she even believes that – kehi kaam garna sakiyena bhane, laast ma teaching kaam ta cha dai cha ni, if one cannot succeed in any other profession or business, or if one cannot find any other jobs – you still have teaching as the last option. I believe, many people in our society hold such view.

Teaching is easy.

Teaching is for females.

Teaching is not a profession – it is just a way to get engaged for a time being.

But, are these claims all real? I have pondered over this issue and I guess these are the reasons for such perception.

The fact that any average person (male or female) with an average result in SLC or plus-2 can work as a teacher in Nepal has twisted this perception even more. These types of teachers working to ‘pass time’ and to save some pocket money – this is widespread in most of the private boarding schools, may be not that widespread in ‘big and rich’ private schools but definitely in small-budget private schools. In Nepal, one simply doesn’t need any teaching license or any teaching experience. In fact, this situation works out fine for the both sides: the schools can make the them work for really low salary and in return, they get what they want – a reason to get engaged for a time being and earn pocket money. Plus, a reason to easily get a certificate of experience. (In case of the government schools, I believe that only those with at least Bachelors in Education get appointed as teachers, hence it might be a different story in those schools.)

The other side of the coin:

Small-budget private schools have their own stories of compulsions and sacrifices. With a limited budget and a necessity to satisfy the requests of fee-paying parents, such schools are compelled to hire these types of teachers. And, when these teachers quit the job (mostly unannounced and in the middle of the session), the school can do absolutely nothing. The first reason, there’s hardly any system of a job contract. The second reason, when a teacher says he/she has been offered a better job and a better pay, the schools can’t hold them back, morally or legally. So, it’s back to the square one. A hunt for another teacher begins and the incessant cycle of hiring a new temporary teacher to finish the session continues.

In fact, according to a very experienced teacher-trainer that I know, over 80% of teachers in the private schools of Nepal are not career teachers. They are just hanging in the schools – either until they complete their studies, or they find another job or they need a job experience to apply for foreign countries. They may also be seeking job in another bigger and reputed school but with an increased pay. The remaining 20% are full time teachers and hardly 5% are true professional career teachers, he claims. I don’t know how authenticate his data is but judging by the opinions of the general people, the data might be a true story.

And thus, the perception that ‘teaching is an easy job’ persists in our society. But you can ask any teacher you meet. They might have joined the profession by choice or by chance, but I bet you they would never say that it’s an easy job.

So, who is responsible for this prevalent perception – the teachers, the schools, the parents, the policy makers?

64. Five books that changed my life – Bartika Rai

bartika

Bartika Rai
http://namastelafille.wordpress.com/

Here’s the second part in my attempt to make people write about their favourite five books. Bartika Rai is currently in the US, studying to complete her undergraduate degree in accounting, music and finance at Wesleyan college. As a writer, she has worked with ECS Media and Navyaata magazine. She loves reading and writing fiction. She says she will not stop spending on books and will not replace them with kindle or used books.

So, in her own words, here are the five books that changed her life. Thank you Bartika for doing this.

The following list is my top 5 for the years that I have existed so far. I am definite that there are only an infinite number of books out there that are as engaging or more, which I have not yet laid my hands on which is a very scary thought to be aware of. For it is scary that people die without reading every book there is, unable to decipher every language there is and without seeing everything there is that exists. I am a huge Murakami follower at this point of time and am extensively reading all of him. A processing existentialist, I am fascinated with Albert Camus and am reading his notebooks (of course the Paperback version), and I like storytellers in The New Yorker, some, Yes. My line of writing is fiction and I have forever sucked at book reviews because of my extreme lengthy emphasis on details. But sharing good reads is important to me, for these books have made an impact in my life. I cannot for sure tell you how it changed me but it did enough to make me carry them everywhere I go, past immigration offices, oceans, and a changing me; it has made me strong enough to trade off some of my dresses and noodles away to carry them in my luggage with me. Well you know how important dresses are for girls, to be girls, to stay girls. This said, these books are more important than my identity to me right now, to a changing me.

1. The Little Prince by Antonie De Saint-Exupery

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I first read The Little Prince when I was 13 with my Reading class at school. My teacher, Mrs. HiraGurung, explained most of the book, and I never saw the book with fascination. The Little Prince to me back then, was to me like Captain Underpants, Tintin, and of less significance than Nancy Drew. With time though, as I struggled with growing up, The Little Prince happened to me again. A pilot who crashes in a desert meets an interesting, almost weird prince which is the beginning of their friendship. The story begins with the pilot reflecting on his childhood dream of becoming an artist and how the adults who surrounded him persuaded him to take another career path when he was just 7. Antoine De Saint-Exupery very wisely uses humor and innocence of his character to explicitly state the realities of the society, the process of adulthood and how we trade off what we love to do with what we should do. Adults love to complicate their already complicated lives by trying to make practical decisions they actually are very confused about. Real artists will then become engineers, real musicians will become bankers and real photographers will become doctors. The amazing thing about The Little Prince is the simplicity of language, the truth and the strange clarity that will leave you questioning what you are doing in your life and have you respect a child’s opinion.

2. The Outsider/ The Stranger by Albert Camus

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My friend Irina first gave me The Outsider to read during a vacation when I was in Grade 9, she, being the amazing person she is, would recommend books to me. I never got past the first paragraph because Sidney Sheldon was in my top charts at that point of time. I never opened the book again until a good number of years later; it lay quietly under my Sheldon book stack. The Outsider is a scary book. It is scary in the sense that it is boldly real. Meursault, the main character of the book, is not a hypocrite, he is honest, he will not pretend because he does not understand why he should. He does not behave in the socially accepted ways and is terribly ordinary. When his mother dies, he does not grieve. In fact, the sun moves him more than his mother’s death, with its occasional irritation and warmth. Returning to his ordinary life after the funeral, he gets involved in a confusing murder and is charged with the crime. His entire life is brought to light following the charge in the trial and he is sentenced to death for being indifferent and for not being a hypocrite. Camus’s writing is unconventional, simple, and threateningly real. This society is a sham for treating hypocrites with so much respect.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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I read Wuthering Heights at a time when I was doing my own small research on classics, and also because classics were always so cheap I could afford it with my pay. Yes, Wuthering Heights is a love story. But it is not a love story written by outsourced writers for a commercial publishing company which are almost like porn books. Wuthering Heights is passionate, sad, compelling and beautifully written. The characters are flawed, jealousy is evident and so is greed. There is pride, foolishness, and complications because the characters do not behave as they rationally should. But then again, whoever behaves in a rational manner every day in their lives. Do you? What makes Wuthering Heights different is the passionate style of writing, the scandalous affair and the time of when it was written, the time in history when it was forbidden for the dark arts to be expressed, especially by a she writer.

4. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

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There are plenty of characters in Otsuka’s novel; Shizuma, Shiki, Toshiko, Tora, Futaye, Mitsuyo, and many more, but there is no I. Otsuka begins the story addressing ‘we’ and ends it with the same protagonist ‘we’ beautifully sticking to it throughout. A fiction inspired by the life stories of Japanese immigrants who came to The US in early 1900s, this novel is a wonderfully told story of how Japanese women came all the way to San Francisco in coach class ship cabins after looking at their husband-to-be’s photographs and letters that stated of lives way more than just rice balls or being a geisha to find out that they were scams. It is a strikingly moving narration of realities draped in fiction of the fragility and strength in being a woman, and of narratives of the Japanese who were in The US dealing with the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. Written in conversational tone that is intimate, this book seems like a forbidden account of which the reader can be a part of. Almost a poem, this book is a good read.

5. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

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Murakami is a ridiculous writer. His readers are insane. Murakami creates people with weak shadows who can talk to cats and make fish fall from the sky and his readers will believe the character. I was first introduced to Murakami by Pranav, my very talented friend, with Norwegian Wood and became instantly drawn to the author. Kafka on the Shore is a strange tale following the lives of two main characters. Murakami has an odd way of writing, in riddles that readers interpret in infinite ways, some own, some borrowed. Kafka on the Shore is engaging, arousing, addictive and surreal. A lot of things happen in this novel but the one that stays forever are the surreal ideas, the fleeting philosophies of life and the suspended metaphors Murakami uses in his fiction. Murakami is a storyteller, that is for definite but what he is more, is a philosopher. As Albert Camus writes in his notebook, “If you want to be a philosopher, write novels.” And more strangely than not, all my writers on the list seem to be doing just that.

63. Becoming a (real) pragmatic teacher: teaching students how to be corrupt

Parents for Cheating

People in this rural area of Dailekh district have demanded that students appearing for SLC exam should be allowed to cheat without any restriction during the exam. The parents of the students tried to enter the exam center in order to help the students cheat. During the incident, they also attacked and injured security personnel. (Kantipur, March 18, 2013)

May be, I should stop trying to teach elements of poetry, how to compose an essay and how to figure out future tense to my students while this issue is creating headlines in the society. May be, I should stop trying to teach the biographies of great personalities – Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Prithivi Narayan Shah, Anuradha Koirala, Albert Einstein, Barrack Obama while the news like these simply don’t justify what I’m trying to instill into the students. May be, I should stop trying to teach the lessons of being simple, of being honest and of being diligent while the people in my country do not believe in those concepts anymore.

I am trying to teach in the class something that does not exist in the real world anymore. In the real world, honesty is not a life skill that you need. Outside the classroom, diligence is not a life skill that you need.

I should stop trying to teach these outdated and harmful philosophies. They seem ‘cool’ only on books and in classroom. They don’t work in the world outside. Because in reality, people are not driven by those concepts in the world outside.

Because, cheating seems to be the life skill after all.

If you are not teaching your students how to cheat in exams and in real life situations, you are robbing them off their time and money. You are throwing your incompetent students into the world which is full of choking competition. Diligence works only for few. Intelligence works only for few. Teachers need to focus on those students who don’t possess intelligence, who don’t have high IQ, who don’t want to study the books. Teach them real life skills so that they too can compete against those brainy students. Cheating. Paired cheating. Grouped cheating. Collaborative cheating. That’s real life skill. Your students may not grow up to be intelligent but they would become smart. Because being smart and being corrupt works.

You would not need any textbooks. You could teach them how to emulate ourselves, how we live our lives. Lives of the people around us, lives of our respected political leaders, lives of social activists, lives of our business owners, lives of our bankers, lives of our principals, lives of our teachers, lives of our parents.

We teachers talk about continued personal and professional development. We talk about equipping ourselves with the latest teaching philosophies and pedagogy. However, those are a total waste until we update and gear ourselves with methodologies to make students smart and corrupt.

If corruption is the new morality, we should move towards incorporating the essence of corruption in our pedagogy. We constantly talk about how language and culture are inseparable. But, what culture? Isn’t being ‘corrupt’ our culture? Isn’t ‘greasing the palms’ our culture? Isn’t ‘kissing ass’ our culture? Let’s get real. Let’s not bluff ourselves. I’m happy knowing that many Nepali teachers are proud flag-holders of several political parties. Great job! Because at least, they are trying to get real. They (try to) emulate their party leaders and in turn, they are trying to influence their students.

Stop teaching history. It’s a waste of time on time that’s already wasted. Just like Carlin implores to us, “Stop living in the past”. Teach present. Teach future. The present is full of people who are corrupt and won’t hesitate to cheat for personal benefit. The future too will be full of these people. So stop teaching the past.

Stop teaching moral science. If science deals about facts and realities, moral science is not a real science. If a shopkeeper returned you two 50 rupees notes when he should have returned only one, you would keep that in your pocket and walk off, wouldn’t you? I probably would. You wouldn’t feel bad about it. It was pure luck, you would justify. Honesty is not a reality. Nor does it work. Teach how to be smart and corrupt. Or, smartly corrupt. Or, incorruptibly corrupt. And teach how to walk off with pride, teach how to walk off without feeling a single drop of guilt in the conscience.

Only then will your teaching become meaningful. Only then will your students learn the real life skills.

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