QUALITY VS. QUANTITY
Bayalpata, Achham, Nepal: Mahendra Secondary School is tucked halfway up one of Achham’s countless steep peaks. Everyday but Saturday at 10am a seamless stream of girls in pleated skirts and boys in tucked collared shirts clamber up rocky paths to reach the broad schoolyard. Students gather outside chilly classrooms, learning lessons under the bright, warm midday sun.
Clusters of girls—giggling, whispering, reading, gossiping—are new to Mahendra, according to the principal, Indrajit Thakulla. He says a decade ago girls made up 5 percent of the student body. Now they outnumber boys, at 53 percent. Thakulla links the population jump with the government’s “Education For All” strategy, which provided cash incentives for girls to attend school starting in 2001. “At least they are giving priority to education,” he said.
But while girls’ attendance has grown enormously, their performance lags far behind their male counterparts. Thakulla says only about 10 percent of girls achieve grade standards, compared to 40-50 percent of boys. The problem, he says, is girls “don’t focus.” Their distraction? Thakulla says girls do almost all the household chores. “This is a problem in most of Nepal, but in Achham it’s even worse.”
Puja Rawal, an outspoken 8th grader, enumerated her extracurricular activities: feeding cattle, beating rice, cooking food, fetching water. Her brothers, on the other hand, “go and play. Wherever they go, they just come back for dinner.” She insists that she prioritizes her studies, but as the outcomes show, balance is more precarious for her than her brothers.
Thakulla, with his deep smile lines and the perspective of a quarter century experience at the school, has faith in the slow march toward gender equity. “I think in 10 years they will be more equal,” he forecast.
-From Pulitzer Center grantees Allison Shelley and Allyn Gaestel, who are in the field in Nepal.
Image by Allison Shelley. Text by Allyn Gaestel.
“When you’re out in the field reporting for long stretches, often at great risk, there are times when you wonder who if anyone is listening. At best, the feedback is virtual — on blogs and in emails. Sharing our work directly with students is a shot in the arm: it reminds us that there’s still an…
Textbooks, 812% More Expensive Than 1978
With a new semester almost upon us, it’s time to figure out why college textbooks are so absurdly expensive.
In 1971, the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan introduced a model of measuring prosperity not by GDP but through Gross National Happiness (GNH), a system of governance based on four pillars: equitable social development, cultural preservation, conservation of the environment, and promotion of good governance. In 2009, the GNH model began to be integrated into the education system through the Green Schools for Green Bhutan initiative.Schools in Bhutan are being encouraged to put the principles of GNH at the heart of education in an effort to make learning more relevant, thoughtful and aligned with sustainable practices. The government has introduced a GNH-based national curriculum, and Unicef Bhutan has funded a training programme for headteachers to help schools implement the scheme at classroom level.The Jigme Losel primary school in the capital, Thimphu, is considered a model of the green schools mindset. The school has introduced practical programmes, including basic agricultural skills, to teach the more than 800 pupils about conservation. Each class has its own tree to care for, and there is a communal vegetable patch and flower garden for the children to manage. The school runs a sustainable food programme feeding low-income students and their families.Children are taught about conserving natural resources, climate change and the dangers of deforestation and pollution. ‘Most of our country is mountainous, but here in the city I think the children can feel disconnected,’ headteacher Choki Dukpa says. ‘Environmental protection is enshrined in our constitution, but young children have to learn why it is important to protect the environment and how the country’s future prosperity depends on its conservation’. [photo]
Here’s to Libraries, large & small, on Dewey Decimal System Day!
The inventor of the Dewey Decimal system of library classification, Melvil Dewey, was born on December 10, 1851.
Bookmobile, pop-up or marble colossus, what’s your favorite Library?
Exoplanet Catalog Reveals 7 Possibly Habitable Worlds
A new catalog aims to list all the known planets in the galaxy that could potentially be habitable to life. The count is at seven so far, with many more to come, researchers said.
The online listing, called the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog, celebrated its first anniversary today (Dec. 5). When it was first released last year, it had two potential habitable planets to its name. According to lead researcher Abel Mendez, the team expected to add maybe one or two more in the catalog’s first year. The addition of five suspected new planets was wholly beyond anyone’s expectations.
“The main purpose is for research, but then I realized that also for the public, it was very important,” said Mendez, director of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo’s Planetary Habitability Laboratory.
[Read more here]
Pakistani surgeons remove bullet from 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, but Taliban threaten to ‘finish this chapter’
Pakistani surgeons removed a bullet on Wednesday from a 14-year-old girl shot by the Taliban for speaking out against the militants and promoting education for girls, doctors said.
Malala Yousafzai was in critical condition after gunmen shot her in the head and neck on Tuesday as she left school. Two other girls were also wounded.
Yousafzai began writing a blog when she was just 11 under the pseudonym Gul Makai for the BBC about life under the Taliban, and began speaking out publicly in 2009 about the need for girls’ education — which the Taliban strongly opposes. The extremist movement was quick to claim responsibility for shooting her.
“This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter,” Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan by telephone. (Reuters)
University students with their necks painted protest at Bolivar square in Bogota, Colombia, Thursday Nov. 3, 2011. Their signs read in Spanish “We have the right to be outraged,” left, and “Excellent education and for all!!” Students are protesting education reforms planned by the government that propose private funding for public institutions. (Fernando Vergara)