By Jemima Morrow and Ravi Ruparel | Published: 25th June 2021
Kids of Kathmandu (KoK) is a truly inspiring charitable organisation. Their focus is on educating children from marginalised communities and building schools across Nepal after the devastation of the 2015 earthquake. COVID has seen these rooms empty like the rest of the world, bringing greater challenges. Even now, KoK are working hard to save resources from their schools that have been destroyed by flooding. We connected with them through an Education channel on Clubhouse (technology is supporting digital education in so many interesting ways). We jumped on a Zoom call with Bhushan Dahal, the Executive Director of KoK, who gave us an insight into educating children in Nepal and the role of content creation and digital education where only a small fraction of people have access to the internet. Despite the climate challenges, COVID challenges and wealth gap, these organisations continue to seek innovative ways to help with the resources they have. At the time of going to press, we heard the news that an entire school that they had built has been devasted by flooding, its sad news but highlights the immediacy and scale of their problems.
Can you give us an overview of Kids of Kathmandu, why you do what you do and why it’s so important?
KoK is a non-profit organisation that was founded in 2010. We initially started helping children from marginalised communities, for example those with hearing disabilities, those living in orphanages, those who are HIV positive and those from war torn backgrounds. Our perspective is that if we can give these children an education, we can give them the tools they need to grow and prosper.
Fast-forward to 2015 and Nepal was hit by an earthquake that caused widespread devastation. I was visiting a village that had been badly impacted and spoke with a young boy who asked me if I knew anyone who could build them a school. He told me that during his last lesson his teacher promised to finish telling the students a story in their next lesson, but before this could happen the earthquake hit. He told me that he wanted to know how the story ended, but now his school was gone and he couldn’t continue to learn. This was a turning point for me and from then on KoK committed to building schools in the most difficult geographical areas, where they are so badly needed, as well as continuing to fulfil our mission to educate those from marginalised communities. Unfortunately, COVID has not helped and there is currently little teacher to pupil contact and few have internet access.
A school built by KoK
Children learning in a classroom built by KoK
What is the role of technology in your schools?
Once we have built a school and fitted it out with the needed resources and infrastructure, we rely on technology to create a strong learning environment. We create video content and work with local organisations who are familiar with education related technology. We can then share the content with schools and teachers, to enhance learning. We call this our digital classroom and we train not only teachers but representatives of municipalities in using it, so that they can go into schools and teach. By combining knowledge and sharing content between schools, we are able to cover many subjects for the children and ensure that they study a high quality syllabus.
How do you see the role of technology in your schools changing in the future?
Nepal doesn’t currently have a strong technological environment. The country’s terrain is beautiful, but it makes it difficult to enhance technology and provide stable internet access.
At the moment we are finding success in educating children through the use of video which can be loaded onto smartphones or computers. The country has seen use of public TV and radio for education at home during COVID. However, these videos can’t be viewed via the internet for most children. Only 1% of students in public schools currently have access to the internet and while 25% of schools have computers, only 12% have the resources to use them properly. Right now we are using the resources available to us and solving an immediate need on the ground, but we hope that as investment is made into improving Nepal’s internet access we can grow and educate children even further by educating them online.
Kids of Kathmandu and Digital Education Awards were connected via Clubhouse. How do you think platforms such as Clubhouse can help your organisation and others like it?
Looking at the bigger picture, there is a community of people who love education and want to help. Platforms like Clubhouse are very helpful in finding the right people with the right intent. There are people out there who are willing to use their experiences, resources and networks to help organisations like KoK, and it’s amazing to create a synergy with people from all around the world!
How can people help your organisation?
Expert knowledge, resources and support is immensely valuable to us, as well as financial support to carry out our mission. Any expertise to help guide us on the right path is incredibly beneficial to us!
The Digital Education Awards team were humbled by this interview. Many of us have taken a lot for granted during a global pandemic. Nepal currently is suffering from flooding at the same time, yet despite this, people like Bhushan are plugging into new technologies that can be accessed to seek out new friends. During the interview, Bhushan mentioned that one of the most beautiful places on earth is the basecamp at Everest in Nepal where you walk through two mountains. It might be a cliché, but it certainly feels like this organisation is parting mountains like climate disaster and a pandemic to chart new journeys.
You can learn more about the organisation here: https://kidsofkathmandu.org/