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‘Naulo Margha’ for Students To Overcome Quake Trauma

Nepal was impacted on April 25, 2015 by an earthquake that devastated 14 of Nepal’s densely populated mid-hill and mountain districts. The death toll has reached over 8,000 and is rising. Over 600,000 homes and 16,000 schools have been impacted. Millions of Nepalis are living under flimsy tarpaulin, and will be forced to do so for months.
Save the Children estimates that 90% of schools have been flattened to the ground  in Gorkha (the epicenter of the quake). The Government of Nepal has mandated that schools reopen on May 30, 2015.  Even though some schools are in good physical condition or can be operational with minor repairs, most students have suffered greatly: some have lost family, others property, and definitely all have felt the fear resulting from the earthquakes.
0 (2)School leaders and teachers are anxious about what to do when students finally start coming into the classrooms. How will the teachers deal with the students? Will they be able to answer their questions? Will the children be interested in their studies, and will they be able to focus in the classrooms? What are the essential steps institutions such as schools that deal with the most vulnerable population need to take?  How does one address the trauma that teachers and students carry into the classroom before regular lessons resume? These are questions that most schools, even in the relatively better-off and well-resourced Kathmandu, are ill-prepared to address.
Naulo Margha is a package of lesson plans that help schools ease students back into regular activities even as they resource them to cope with the inevitable trauma resulting from the earthquake. It is also a long term intervention that seeks to change the way teaching and learning happens in Nepal. Naulo Margha consists of three parts:
  1. a week long series of of post-earthquake focused lessons that focus on preventative mental health and reintegration of students into normal school activities
  2. a year long calendar of continuing events that help children move forward from the quake.
  3. a multi-year intervention in a limited geographical area to support teachers and schools with teacher coaching and rebuilding.
The collaboration is training around 100 trainers who are going to train another 2400 teachers in Kathmandu valley in coming week. After that the trainers are going to more affected districts. The delivery of teacher training is happening in partnership with PABSON , NPABSON and government school cluster in Kathmandu valley. All the partners have been very supportive in the training of their teachers and have come together in this time of crisis.

A brief history
Within 96 hours of the quake, a small group of educators gathered to explore how they could contribute their skills to the community. The immediate and pressing need identified was to keep children in the temporary camps engaged. In working with the children in camps, it became clear that just energizers and fun games were insufficient. There was a need for deeper engagement, including opportunities for children to express and process what was going on around them.
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We reached out to mental health experts and sought their advice in designing a 3 day long program for kids that would be fun, engaging and could help a significant portion of the population to move forward. As the reopening of schools and temporary learning centers came on the agenda, these lessons formed the core of Naulo Margha.
While Naulo Margha’s immediate priority is preventative mental health, it encapsulates teaching best practices and an activity based learning program. Thus, teachers are learning better ways of teaching along with becoming the front line in preventing deep trauma from setting in. We hope to leverage the relationships we create in the process to change the teaching-learning process,
In the post-quake context teachers feel anxious and vulnerable about going back into classrooms that may be missing students and to face students that may be missing their caregivers. Thus, the tragedy of the quake provides an opportunity to reframe how teachers and students interact in the classroom. A simple but important component of Phase 1 of Naulo Margha is to institute a daily morning meetings where the teacher listens to the students share whatever is on their mind. This simple change will, we hope, being the process of creating more emphatic teachers that see the emotional wellbeing of their students as part of their responsibilities.
Thus Phases 1 and 2 focus on a large scale light-touch intervention that seeks to maximize coverage. But Phase 3 focuses on a long term engagement with in a limited geographical area to maximize impact. In other words the immediate need is to wide (and thus shallow) but the long term need is to do deep (which necessitates keeping a narrow focus). 
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Rato Bangala Foundation in collaboration with Karkhana conducted a day-long training of trainers (TOT) on Earthquake Relief through Education with 86 participants from different schools and organizations in Rato Bangala School premises on 21 May 2015. The second day of the training scheduled for 22 May will see the same participants aspiring to go to the earthquake affected districts to help teachers to understand the needs of post-disaster psychological status of children and act appropriately during first few days of the school when it actually commences.
The training focused on enabling teachers and educationists; to-be-trainers, with appropriate knowledge and hands-on experience to transfer the knowledge to practicing teachers in the districts. The major thrust of the activities, discussions and deliberations of the training focused on deciding how we help teachers realize the need to be empathetic to the earthquake affected children and engage them in activities that help them rediscover themselves.


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