A Conversation with Bibek Pariyar, Former Student, Partnership in Education Program, Kathmandu, Nepal

April 28, 2021

Background: As part of the Education and Social Justice Project, in April 2021 graduate student Tierra Hatfield (G’22) interviewed Bibek Pariyar, a former student and trainee with the Partnership in Education (PiE) program at St. Xavier’s College (SXC) in Kathmandu, Nepal. In this interview, Pariyar discusses his experience as a former PiE student and reflects on his later teaching in the program.

Could you please tell me a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you were involved with PiE?

I am currently studying engineering, and before that I, I completed my studied from a school which is in my area, the school is located here, and I got 3.8 GPA. And during my tenth grade I, first time I had a chance to go to PiE. One of my friends took me, a friend told me about the studies he was doing at PiE, and I also wanted to experience what a different classes and activities will be like, like cooking class, because I didn't have any. There was good teaching classes before, then I completed my SES, and I joined St. Xavier scholars for Plus Two studies and graduated at 2019. Then I applied for engineering and got a chance to study in an engineering campus. And just talk about my family, I have four members in my family and I have a brother and my mom works at a tailor, and my father is an ex-army and now currently is working as a security guard at abroad.

You said that you heard about the PiE program through your friend?

Yeah, and there was a friend, he talked to me about these classes, he used to go in the morning, and so I was interested and came along with. Before Grade 10, I hadn't heard about it.

The members of the PiE also do some visiting, school visiting. I came to know that, after I came to PiE and I also taught in the PiE, and I came to know that they go to schools for this type of introducing students to this program. Before that I didn't expect, I hadn't been told about this from the PiE directly. So I got to know it from my friend, rather than the teachers coming to the school.

What motivated you to go back to PiE as a trainee or a volunteer when you were in the Plus Two program, after you finished the PiE program as a student?

Mainly, and the thing that encouraged me to teaching at PiE was my teachers. They were very encouraging, and also I liked how they use to talk and how these teachers were very friendly, and I also wanted to do the same thing. 

How long were you at St. Xavier’s College as a student in the Plus Two program?

Yes. I left for, I graduated from St. Xavier scholars in 2019 or 2018. Okay, so it was it was before COVID. My university, my college, time was from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. And so normal mornings, and I went to college and we're practically and classes and some three times, then I came to home and, and had studies and that's all.

Did you use to go every day to PiE when you were a student and when you were with a trainer or teacher as well?

Yeah. When I was a student, I went regularly. And then, I, I stopped going before our board exam started like one month I had because I prepared by staying at home. And when I was teaching, we had routines and for a month, for two three months we had routines, and yeah, I used to go on that time. And they say, have a plan. You know we would do three days, maybe, alternate days or consecutive. On our regular days, regular three in a row, yeah, during those days we had, I went every day. For like three days in a week, and we had morning classes in PiE and we had to study in the afternoon in the college.

While you were in the PiE program as a student, in high school, how did the program help you?

It was helpful because the teaching methods and ideas given by the teachers were very helpful during my final exams. And they also are friendly and not only in academics, but I learned a lot of other things.

So then on the classes were not on the about the studies, we had extra 15 minutes, like 20 minutes to get engaged in social activities such as sharing our opinions on some topics and discussing something or playing games, something like that, and that will encourage us to speak out in our group and also develop ourselves. Also they visited my home and got to know my family. And I am happy that they visited, and I was very much interest by them.

What were the home visits like for you as a student in the PiE program?

Yeah, because I didn't have a lot of visitors interested in me, I am only child in my family and it was good to know it was welcoming and that they wanted to know about me and they really cared about us so. They use to talk about how the studying is and, and how, how I am at home. My family background.

Could you tell me a little bit more about how the PiE program was structured?

The students from Grade 5 to, 5 to 9 were pretty high, the number of students. For the classes, the most was seven and eight trainees and volunteers to teach the class, from Grade 7 and Grade 8 there use to be almost 20 to 21 students regularly, and the same number goes to Grade 8 and 9. The students in Class 10, however, were fewer because most of them use to do self-study, and there are few students in Class 10 and also the students in lower grades. 

In the time from when you were a student in PiE in Grade 10 and when you were a trainee in the PiE in the Plus Two program, did you notice any changes in the program?

Well, when I joined it was like anyone could join at any time. I joined PiE around that time. And now, after I became the trainee I know that not everyone will join in at any time. First, they had to be registered, or they had to include the name in the start of the year and then they would be provided an ID card and then only they could join PiE. I found the difference between before and after.

Did you conduct any house visits as a trainee or volunteer?

No. They had house visits, but I didn't participate, I think.

Can you tell me a little bit about the social activities and personal development aspects of PiE?

The last 15 minutes there used to be some interactive activities, and they also had some programs like picnics and games and other developing activities in the Saturdays. But I was not available in Saturdays so I couldn't join this when I was a volunteer in the programs.

In your experience as a trainee, how did PiE help the kids you were teaching? 

The students were very much eager to learn. So, it also motivated us to teach them, and they did good in their academics.

What was it like when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Kathmandu? Can you describe what you were thinking and feeling at the time?

The first time I heard about COVID, I was still running with my friend and he said, of course, about a new virus spreading in China and, and I thought, I didn't think of it becoming such a big pandemic. But I thought that it was not good, and now we still have the messages among friends in college when we initially didn't have the idea that it would grow this big.

When the COVID crisis started, what was the initial response by your university and how did it impact you and your studies?

Yeah, I was in my engineering program and the first semester was going on and I was having my studies. It was at the last, the last days and we had a one-month gap and we used to have exams. So it was like, we had, we were having our final studies going on and practical exams and other activities and we were on the one-month gap. The few cases we've seen about so our exams got stopped and we didn't have any notices about when the exam is going to be and or when our studies where to be, that stuff, we had no idea what was going to happen because none of the notices were given to us from the university.

I think that, since we didn't know when our exams are going to be, we were eager to know and we wanted the university to provide details about when our stopped exams are going to be. During the pandemic, we had free time so I got time to learn on one more topics and what I like rather than the topics I am studying in the college and my friends also as we're studying different topics in this time.

After the initial lockdown, what were the changes that took place at your university?

Yeah, the university started giving notices on what would happen for the studies, when they are going to be and the exams were not possible. So that to start the second semester, so from like September, we had online classes of the second semester, and leaving the stopped exams from the first semester there, and we had classes of the second semester online up to December, January. We finished the second semester and we had exams, during that time and we had exams of the first semester as well. Recently I did my second semester exam and we had a break for like two weeks. And now I have classes for a third semester again from today, online it has started from today.

Has everyone in your university and community been able to access the online classes and exams?

Yeah, for most of the friends were able to connect to the classes, despite few friends who, there was one friend who was not able to and most of the classes he was not able to do most of the classes, but we had recordings and so after the lockdown ended, he was able to get those recordings and studied from this. The teachers at school recorded every meeting and the meeting the classes were done in teams, so the teacher had to record and we were able to download within 20 days, so friends were keeping, keeping those videos from the classes.

Did you go back to in-person classes at the start of January when the lockdown was lifted?

No, we didn't have to go to college for classes, but we had exams after that, so it was like for one month we didn't. We only went to college for exams, and we had practical classes also from second semester. So, during that time we, we got to meet our friends and we had exams again, but we didn't have any theory classes.

Do you know what the situation has been for the public government schools and other universities in Kathmandu?

I have a sister who's studying in a government school and she used to have online classes, during that time and after the lockdown. They had exams in school itself but our parents didn't consent, so instead her did exams from home. Yeah, the government colleges also had online classes. But, I’m the only one doing the PiE program.

Most of the students from Kathmandu can attend [online classes], but not all of them, but most of them could access online classes. But not everyone had the device to attend online classes and the facility, I also thought of that. The government school ran online classes, but I don't think it was effective for the families because they don't have these facilities and all families do not have mobile phones that could be used to join these classes.

Do you know anything about how the PiE students are doing or no have you been in contact with anyone at PiE?

No, not really. 

Is there anything that you would change about the decisions made by the universities and schools in Kathmandu during the COVID crisis?

For me, these decisions about the classes from the universities were good. I didn't have any thoughts on that. But for all the people, because of the lockdown, the people who work daily for income didn't have a chance to get supplies they need.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about your experience. I really appreciate it. 

Thank you for interviewing me.

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