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Esther Peters, PHGR: My Experiences in Nepal


In 2011, I spent one month in Nepal where I volunteered as a teacher and led teachers’ training sessions. It was in fact a very interesting and enriching experience as I had the opportunity to mingle with the local people and to get acquainted with Nepalese customs and traditions.

But let me start from the very beginning. Everything took its course at the PHGR (college of education in Chur, Switzerland). The headmaster asked me whether I was interested in accompanying a retired couple, Dora and Urs Frey, to Nepal, where they provide foreign aid in different local schools. My task would be to assist them in teaching and training sessions.

Of course, I was more than interested – I was thrilled. Without any hesitation, I contacted the couple and booked a flight to Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital. On January 29, 2011, I left Switzerland and flew through Delhi to Kathmandu. There I spent an adventurous but also challenging month, before I travelled back to Switzerland on February, 26.

Looking back, I cannot say who learned more – me or the Nepalese people. Actually, I had gone to Kathmandu to teach the people there about Pedagogy and successful teaching. I should help them to improve their educational system, which in itself is a hard task because Nepal has no Constitution and fixed Government at the moment. So our work was at the basis of all – in private schools, discussing with headmasters and teachers. I tried to teach them how to improve their classes by implementing group work and asking good questions.

But I also learned a lot. I found out how political problems have a great impact on the motivation of teachers. Most of the teachers were willing, even eager to learn something about our teaching methods and our educational system. But when they faced the challenges of preparing their lessons and spending extra time at school, they hesitated. Many teachers have to wait for their salaries for several months and thus need a second job. Some of them are still students in a university or a college and need time to study for their own exams. So why should they invest time in improving their teaching? This does not fill their stomach, nor does it help their career.

Furthermore, the Nepalese culture is completly different from the Swiss culture. Their way of seeing life and its challenges is unusual for Western people. Many things we would fight against are taken as given and unchangeable. I realized this when the neighbour of my host family – she is around my age – told me about her marriage. As most of the newly married Nepalese women, she lived with her husband's parents. Her mother-in-law expected that she got up every morning at 5 o'clock to help her clean the house and prepare lunch. But this young woman was studying and overloaded with work. Still, she did not dare tell that to her mother-in-law – just because it is not their culture to do so. When I asked her how she feels about that, she just told me that she would treat her own children differently.

To sum up, I experienced an intensive period of cultural exchange in a country which is on its way from a traditional way of living to modern life.

Glarus and Chur in 2012
Esther Peters