Interview with Project Coordinator by Himal Partner
Sushil Shrestha is coordinator for Community Education Programme, but he is also teaching and doing research. Sushil has his education from KU and a master in computer science.
I have a wish to contribute to growth and development at KU. At the same time it is patriotism”, Sushil says enthusiastically. He has also spent periods in the field teaching and administering the programme, and seen firsthand the impact of the programme. This is my country, and I will contribute to making it possible that more youth sees a future in staying in Nepal.
Knowledge of rural Nepal
Most of the students come from urban parts of the country, and have limited knowledge of the rural life. KU has worked a lot toward giving the students more insight in this, and also to contribute some of its competence to the communities. Himal Partner is a funding partner with KU, and together we have coordinated through the KU Community Education Programme.
The programme has 3 main components: community development, education of students through CEP, and business incubation. Target areas are Langtang valley, Tamakoshi valley and some of the outreach centres of Dhulikhel Hospital.
During 2010-2012 a pilot-project with students from electrical, computer science and mechanical engineering was implemented. The student groups were placed in the districts for a week for student projects. One of the projects was a tele-medicine where basic district hospital could undertake more complicated operations through internet guidance from a specialized hospital in Kathmandu. The pilot project clearly showed the interest from the community and from the students to take this further. The students got it going.
CEP in continuous change
“Developed from being just a course for second year engineering students, now CEP is expanding to comprise all the students.”During our visits in the districts we clearly saw that the needs and the expectations in the rural communities where agriculture is a major part differed from those in the urban areas where computer and technology are in focus” says Sushil. “Since the start of CEP more than 1000 students have been sent to the districts though CEP. They have contributed by activities like mini-hydels, made solar panel installations, repaired computers and mobiles, developed apps for touristic purposes just to mention a few. An agro-project is in its initial stage.The students themselves are proposing interesting student projects for the fieldtrip. Their ideas are scrutinized and have to be approved before going to the field. A result of this is a lot of creativity and base for the newly established business incubation centre at KU”.
To build good relations with the target groups is a challenge. The students are placed in the local area a short period undertaking their projects, and then they disappear. Our target is that the student groups go to the same over some years in order to develop the projects over time.
Before going to the rural communities the students are briefed on how to meet people, how to conduct, how to communicate. Respect regardless of reactions, is important. This is not necessarily always the case in the society, but very important for KU’s reputation.
“A group of computer students came back disappointed and told they could not contribute anything to the community. The contact person could everything from before”, Sushil says. “I travelled back with the students to create a dialogue. We had a good chat. Then it was clear that this person felt difficult to be taught by the students who all were much younger than him. The result of relation building was turned into fruitful days together with the students”.
Longterm strategy and sustainbility
Sushil has to think before responding to the question of long term effects and sustainability of the project. From being a pure KU project now it utilizes and cooperates with some of Dhulikhel Hospital outreach centres in the district. The staff of the health posts have participated in the student projects and been receiving training together with the local population. This may give a good basis for follow-up longterm in the districts. “We already now see that some of the projects have created change. As an example I can mention a geomatic project. Conflicts around ownership of land are a big problem. People lack knowledge of the form alias of borders between properties. Through simple methods the students gave the people knowledge about measurements and help to solve problems which may been ongoing for generations. We hope that KU CEP also makes an impact on the students, and that more of them can start their own enterprises, create work and develop their own land.. Too many young people leav Nepal for work abroad”, says Sushil.He continues “The interest is increasing, but the greatest challenge is to increase the internal ownership at KU at the department level.Some of departments do not plan the student visits into their semester programmes, and the students therefore need to use the holiday-time to undertake the student projects and field visits. This is not good for the programme longterm. Another challenge is to keep the students in-country. ; Many of them easily go abroad if the opportunity comes for further education or work.The project coordinator has faith in the programme that it will make change to the better for people, and in particular, give the youth determination that their conribution can make a difference to the country of Nepal.
KU CEP: Webpage: www.ku.edu.np/cep
Started in 2010 as a pilot project. Pilot phase expanded till an ongoing programme.
Target areas: Tamakoshi valley, langtang valley, outreach centres of Dhul Hosp
3-legged programme: education, community development, business incubation
Funded through HimalPartner project “Engineers for development”, approx 600,000 NOK per year, project agreement 2013-2015
More than 1000 students have been through KU CEP