Claudia Fritz


    Chargée de recherche CNRS
    en acoustique musicale


de l'anglais au Népal (Nov.-Dec. 2008)

Passionnée de montagne depuis toute petite, mes loisirs sportifs principaux sont l’escalade, le ski, le trek ou la randonnée et l’alpinisme (été comme hiver). Par conséquent, une ascension himalayenne dans la région de l’Everest faisait partie de mes rêves depuis longtemps et j’ai choisi de faire une expédition au Népal. Par ailleurs, j’ai été sensibilisée à la malheureuse condition des porteurs lors de mon trek sur le Mont Kenya l’année dernière, et j’ai donc commencé un projet pour les aider. J’ai vendu mes photos (je suis photographe amateur) et récolté des vêtements pour envoyer le tout au Kenya et en Tanzanie, dans le cadre du Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project. Dans la continuité de ce projet, j’ai décidé de rester quelques semaines de plus au Népal après mon ascension pour faire du bénévolat pour une ONG népalaise, qui s’applique à améliorer les conditions de travail et de vie des porteurs, à travers divers programmes : High Himalayan Community Projects, Nepal (anciennement Porters' Progress Nepal). J’y ai enseigné l’anglais dans une école secondaire durant la journée, et aux porteurs adultes en matinée et en soirée, dans un village reculé du Langtang.

Since my early childhood, I’ve always been fond of mountaineering and trekking. I’ve always carried my own backpack and equipment until last year, when I went trekking on Mount Kenya. There were four of us and we hired one guide and four porters. I was horrified by their lack of equiment: no warm or waterproof clothes, shoes mostly without soles, ... So when I came back home, I decided to act! I sold my best pictures taken in Kenya (one won a photography competition) as Christmas cards and collected 40 kg of clothes. 20 kg were sent directly to the porters I hired and 20 kg will go next month to Tanzania for a big event including a clean-up initiative of Mount Kilimandjaro, porters assistance and education programs. As for the money, it was sent to Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project.
When, earlier this year, I realised that I would have the opportunity to go to Nepal for almost two months, I decided to combine a climbing expedition in the Everest range (which has been a dream for a long time) with some more actions for porters. I therefore contacted High Himalayan Community Projects, Nepal and chose to teach English in a remote porters’ village in the Rasuwa district, close to the Langtang National Park. The course would be offered to adult porters who want to improve their English but as well to all the children and teenagers who were interested. I’m indeed convinced that part of the porters’ condition can be improved if they can talk with their clients and not just be “slaves”, exploited by the trekking companies and the local guides.
When I arrived in Jhyanglang, more than 150 people (from Jhyanglang and the neareby villages) showed interest. I provided each of them with a notebook and a pen, and I divided the course in three classes: one from 6.15 to 8.15 in the morning, for teenagers and adults, one from 3.30 to 5.15pm for children and then the last one from 5.15 to 6.30pm for teenagers. It was still completely crazy as the classroom was overcrowded at each class. However, when they realised that I asked them to work and think during the class so they would learn efficiently, their motivation largely decreased, and at the end, only about 50 students attended the classes regularly.
The teaching experience was actually more challenging than what I had thought. The education system in this area (in Nepal?) is indeed quite bad and students only learn to repeat and copy. But they don’t think at all. So, for instance, they are unable to use a conjugation table in order to conjugate a verb correctly. I can understand that they don’t know by heart the different conjugations (although it’s really surprising for students who have been studying English for more than 6 years), but I can’t understand that they still can’t conjugate in the present and the past tenses once they are given and explained the rules, which are pretty easy in English (much easier than in Nepali actually!). So many times, I felt powerless, as I couldn’t find any more ways to explain them better what they still seemed not to understand. For instance after they were told the rules about the articles and practiced on more than 50 examples, they still wrote “A bananas are yellow”! Tell me, what could I do?
However, even if I felt often frustrated, I saw some improvements after just less than one month, at least for the most hard working students, so that was rewarding. And they were all very sweet and eager to learn, although they had difficulties to understand that one doesn’t learn a language just by attending a class and copying what the teacher writes on the white board!
Finally, I think it is important for a Westener to experience for a while the conditions in which 75% of the world live! One never really understands things until one experiences them. The living conditions here are tough but people are mostly happy and very generous. So this made me question many things about the Western lifestyle and realise what is really important in life. But it showed me as well what still need to be done in terms of education (and of course in many other areas but in which I am much less qualified like sanitization for instance). So I will do my best to continue some educational action in this part of the world.

Overall, I had an amazing time which will change me forever. People in the village were very nice and I felt friendly welcomed. So I want to warmly thank everybody, but especially Hari Krishna Devkota and his lovely family, without them none of this would have been possible. 

If you want to know more about my experience there, you can read the diary that I wrote as a letter to my family and friends:

  • the whole diary in a pdf file
  • or day by day, with many more pictures than in the pdf file :

I would like to thank all the people who supported this project financially. With the money I collected, I bought books to teach English (they proved to be very useful and I left them at Hari's place for future volunteers), novels and comics in English for Jhyanglang's library, pens and notebooks for my students and two students had the possibility to get their sight checked and improved. The remaining £450 were donated to Porters' Progress Nepal for educational programs in the Rasuwa district.

As you can see from my report, there is still a lot to do in Nepal, in terms of education, health and sanitization, ...! So if you want to help, by any way, to decrease the poverty in the rural areas of Nepal, please contact Hari Krishna Devkota directly or through his NGO High Himalayan Community Projects, Nepal. Trust me, Hari will make sure that the money donated will always be used extremely efficiently. And if you want to volunteer, you will gain as much as you give, believe me!

If you want more information or have any comment, don't hesitate to contact me personally.