KMC’s ‘textbook-free Fridays’ drive makes students happyGuardians’ Federation and teachers say it should be continued since skills and education go hand in hand in giving students a competitive edge.
A few months ago, ninth-grader Subash Ghimire had made up his mind to go abroad after completing his Secondary Education Examination (SEE) but after he took the weekly mobile repairing classes for the past eight Fridays at Durbar High School, he is now hoping to live and earn in Nepal.
The training is a part of the ‘textbook-free Friday’ initiative launched by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) on April 28. As part of the pilot project, students in 56 community schools of the city’s 89 schools start their Fridays without books or bags, learning essential life skills and engaging in other extracurricular activities.
“The mobile repairing training has given me hope and confidence,” said Ghimire, 17, the youngest member of his family. “My two brothers are living abroad. If the course I am doing can get me a job here, I don’t need to go abroad to earn.”
Ghimire said if the course continues, it would give hope to many more students like him to stay in Nepal and do something on their own.
“After this course started, my friends are happier and they are also more regular at the school,” said Ghimire.
He said that after the KMC started vocational courses, both students and teachers were excited and everyone was asking if this could continue throughout the year.
“It’s been a great experience for both students and their teachers, but we can give proper feedback only after three months,” said Raj Adhikari, the principal of Durbar High School.
Under the textbook-free Friday drive, the school has been providing a mobile repairing course as well as a metro kheti (vegetable cultivation) course for ninth graders. Adhikari said the students have planted vegetables and herbs on the school premises.
For the students studying in classes six to eight, the school has collaborated with the Jamal-based Rastriya Nachghar, where they can pursue their hobbies like dancing and singing.
Adhikari said since the school foresaw chances of parents not sending their children to school if they were not carrying books, the school has started taking unit tests every Friday for one and a half hours.
“It would be a live revision of one week of activities, and the class teacher would take those tests. Once they complete, they then engage in the extracurricular activities,” said Adhikari.
The KMC had launched the pilot project with a fund of Rs20 million, according to Sita Ram Koirala, chief of the Education Department of the metropolis.
“We have got very positive responses from parents and all community schools,” said Koirala.
As part of the initiative, the students of grade 9 have been learning from the optional short-term courses on 10 topics including agriculture; urban farming; cosmetology; carpentry and wood-carving; culinary arts; fashion design and clothing; electrical wiring; mobile and electronic repairs; plumbing, stitching and sculpture.
The KMC has hired CTEVT-certified trainers to teach practical skills to the students, Koirala said.
Meanwhile, students from other grades, too, have been engaged in various extracurricular activities aimed at both their mental and physical growth. Schools have been providing a variety of activities including essay writing, music and poetry recitation.
“Ever since the 'book-free Friday’ was initiated, the students look happier,” said Sita Bhusal, who is in charge of the pre-primary unit of the Bafal-based Gyanodaya Secondary School.
The school has been running stitching and mobile repairing training for grade nine students and other extracurricular activities such as music, dance, drawing, and oratory competitions for students from other grades.
“I think, if managed properly, this will be a great way to inspire students to follow their passion. Now they have a choice to learn the things they want,” said Bhusal. She suggested that the KMC support all community schools to make the book-free Fridays more effective and efficient.
Speaking to the Post before she resigned as KMC’s education advisor, Reshu Aryal said the ‘book-free Friday’ is an initiative to let people know that books alone are not the source of education. “We are also trying to incorporate localised education for students with a more practical approach to skill enhancement,” Aryal said.
She added that the KMC was planning to involve students of class eight in vocational training in the next fiscal year.
“KMC will continue the project in the next fiscal year also,” Aryal said. “It is planning to double the present fund for the educational sector in the city's schools.”
Aryal resigned from her post on Sunday citing ‘conflict of interest’ and reservation over Mayor Balendra Shah’s recent action.
Meanwhile, the Nepal Guardians’ Federation has welcomed KMC's ‘textbook-free-Fridays’ drive.
“The KMC should give continuity to the drive because both the parents and students are happy,” said Suprabhat Bhandari, chair of the federation. “Skills and education go hand in hand for the prosperity of any nation, and all other local bodies should follow suit.”