In the summer of 2013 Ramyia, a medical student at Oxford University, went to Nepal with The Mountain Trust. Ramyia worked on health and hygiene teaching. Her experiences led to her developing a curriculum for our new Health and Hygiene Teaching Programme. Read more about Ramyia's experience below.
In my short time with this charity, I was able to see first-hand the numerous incredible projects this charity is involved in. In this report, I have provided some suggestions on future projects that the charity can get involved in, in collaboration with myself and other individuals. I really had an amazing time working for this charity and I hope to do so again in future.
During my short time volunteering for the charity, I worked on providing health and hygiene education at numerous schools, investigated the hygiene practices of 2 hospitals and also visited the riverbed community next to the Seti River. In this report, I aim to summarize my experiences volunteering with the charity and provide recommendations on how I can help the charity in future.
Health and Hygiene in Schools: In my time in the Mountain trust, I was instructed to give a health and hygiene lesson to students from Jasdeswar Secondary school in the Thumki village development committee. Throughout this lesson, I informed students about various common diseases (e.g. Diabetes, Heart Attack and Sexually Transmitted Infections) and the preventative measures as well as treatment options available for these diseases. The students and even the teacher present were full of questions with regard to what I taught, suggesting to me that they had a deep interest in finding out more about these diseases and various other health issues. We even extended the lesson by an extra half an hour so that students could ask more questions and I could cover more material. I was informed by the teacher that the students were much more receptive to my lesson and interactive with me as I made the effort to use Hindi to engage the students (since most Nepalese people speak Hindi). I also attended an Environment, Population and Health (EPH) class for Grade 9 students at Balmandir Secondary School, a semi-private school in Nandipur. Throughout this lesson, I found that the teacher was only going through very technical concepts outlined in the textbook (e.g. the mathematical formula for population growth calculation) and there was no application to any real-world situations. I was able to talk to the teacher after the lesson and he mentioned how parents and students have very little regard for the subject, preferring to prioritize more technical mathematics and science subjects. He also noted that the EPH lessons in the school cater more for the SLC examinations but offer very little practical advice into diseases affecting Nepalese people and hygiene measures that can be adopted to minimize these diseases. This suggests that there is a need for further hygiene and health education in schools, offering practical advice to the students and discussing key concepts of disease prevention with the students, outside the core curriculum.
Reflection: I was slightly taken aback to give a health and hygiene class upon my first day at the school. In fact, I was only provided with the textbook materials used by the students about an hour before the start of the lesson and so, felt rather unprepared to handle the lesson. Even so, I did my best to cover the material listed in the textbook together with some additional knowledge I had acquired in medical school. I think it would have been valuable to tailor some lesson plans and perform more research on diseases commonly afflicting Nepalese populations. I would have also liked to do more interactive activities with the students and prepare more diagrams, so as to make the lesson more engaging for the students. I would have also brushed up on my Nepalese health-related vocabulary, as this would have helped me to engage the students further, as I am sure some of the message was lost in translation. I question the utility of a single lesson in addressing the health and hygiene understanding of the class as 1.5 hours is clearly not enough to answer all of the students’ questions and bring many important concepts across for the students’ long-term. I appreciate that resources are limited in schools and it’s difficult to coordinate a longer-term programme. However, I still feel more can be done to address the understanding of these students in these important issues. That is why I am continuing my work with the Mountain Trust as ‘Health and Hygiene Programme Facilitator’. I will be organising curriculum content, course materials and a three-week programme during the summer for volunteers from around the world to go to schools and teach about health and hygiene practices.
If you would like to join me contact Ramyia@mountain-trust.org