Table of Contents

2014 Apr – May • Nepal

Friends Peace Teams traveled to Nepal, April – May 2014.

John Michaelis reports on his trip to Nepal:

Teaching teachers non-violence

In partnership with Children Nepal, a small team comprising Judith Simpson, Vidya Sutton and myself returned to Nepal in April and May 2014 to run several Basic Workshops in remote villages in the Pokhara region. I was struck by the earnest concern expressed by many teachers to find non-violent ways to teach, while still maintaining order. We were fortunate that our team member Judy is an Australian math teacher who began teaching 34 years ago, when beating was still the norm in Australian schools. She taught through the transition when physical punishment was eliminated. Her personal testimony as to how the elimination of physical punishment resulted in better rather than worse order in the classroom was invaluable and she was able to respond to the many questions concerning such a transition. The participants chose to act out role play scenarios in the workshop that depicted typical violent beatings in the schools. In debriefing of other activities, many shared personal stories of beatings they had received, witnessed or perpetrated, including a head teacher, who shared how in slapping a student’s face he had inadvertently damaged her eye.

Conditions are very basic in the villages and some were very remote.

An overcrowded minibus from inside. Three hours in the heat can be a long time!

To reach one village, we drove over an exceptionally rough road to the closest point and then walked up for nearly an hour to reach our destination, carrying our bags and workshop kit. In the workshop, both facilitators and participants struggled with the heat in a small tin-roofed classroom with the sun beating down, tiny windows and no through draft. We learned to deal with squat toilets, sleeping on hard wooden boards, cold showers (when showers were even available), tummy trouble, ridiculously overcrowded buses and an endless diet of rice and dhal. We also saw incredible views, built and strengthened our community and relationship with each other and with amazing Nepalese people with a deep concern that children must be able to grow up free from systemic and institutionalized physical violence.

Mid-western Nepal

We were invited to facilitate a Basic workshop at the  Mid-Western University, Conflict and Peace Studies Department  in Surkhet in mid-western Nepal, nearly a 20 hour bus journey from Pokhara on roads that can at best be described as interesting. In the wee hours of the morning our bus had a tyre blowout. It was pitch dark and the bus driver had no flashlight so they borrowed mine to replace the wheel.

After graduation - Surkhet

The Surkhet region was the center of most of the violence during the ten violent years of Maoist revolution in Nepal. A teacher participating in our workshop, shared how the Maoist’s tried to force his cousin and himself to join them with in disposing of the bodies from an attack they were about to launch on the government offices there. Refusing would have resulted in instant death while assisting would have made them fugitives from the Nepali armed forces. So at a moment’s notice they abandoned their teaching jobs and escaped to the jungle, climbing many thousands of feet to escape. Other workshop participants cited similar traumatic experiences with the Maoists.