Kakkadvitta (Jhapa), Sept 2: The behavioral attitudes of both the school-goers and teachers at Sahid Dasrath Chand Higher Secondary School (SDCHSS) at Duhagadhi, Jhapa has witnessed a sea change lately, thanks to the active role played by a local child club.
The otherwise submissive students have now become outspoken while teachers have turned more responsible towards their duties as the child club steps up surveillance.
Let’s take Manju Rijal, a tenth grader, for instance. Earlier she was only focused on her studies and was not aware about other issues, including child rights.
Of late, she knows about wide range of relevant child rights issues and does knowledge sharing with her peers. She attributes the positive changes in her thinking and behavior to the child club she has been involved for few years now.
“I am aware of my rights and responsibilities due to the child clubs,” confides Manju.
Besides Manju and other students of SDCHSS, students at Buddha Adarsha Higher Secondary School at Budhabare in the district have also undergone the similar experience, owing to the child club impact.
From the children, by the children
There are around 10 such clubs formed in the higher secondary school in rural areas of Jhapa after the ‘child-to-child ‘ approach. The approach is rooted in the belief that the children could be the best people to explain and try to solve the children’s problems.
In line with this concept, the Human Rights Forum, Nepal has helped set up child clubs across Jyamirgadhi, Duhagadi, Shantinagar, Bahundangi, Dhaijan, Dhulabari among other rural places in the district.
These child clubs members, who range mostly from age 10 to 16, have been undertaking various social initiatives, sometimes beyond their school premises too.
Child club’s undertakings and its impacts
The child club members publish a monthly wall paper, in an attempt to shed light on their school and child club’s activities. “The club has offered us a platform to showcase and foster our talents and creativity,” shared Leela Sharma, another child club member.
Through the wall paper, the child club also serves the social purpose. The child club members raise voice against social evils like girl trafficking, drug abuse and child marriage among others.
Not only that, their scope of area also includes knowledge-sharing about the budget allocated by their respective VDCs and conducting trainings to help children like them build leadership quality and learn about life skills, according to Mani Kumar Limbu, Coordinator of Human Rights Forum Nepal.
“Earlier, we were shy about discussing our personal issues in public and seeking suggestions from the peers or seniors. Also we were only concerned about our regular academic studies” recalled Manju, adding that with the involvement in child club, they are introduced to a broader arc of extra-curricular activities.
As children started to become aware about their rights and responsibilities, they have swept the schools and their surrounding by changes. They advocate about child rights and raise voice against its violation.
From running sanitation drive in their school to managing the solid waste, these school-goers have awestruck seniors with their small but inspiring undertakings.
Sitaram Rimal, patron teacher of the child club in SDCHSS, explained that the school has undergone a sea-change since the establishment of the child club. “The extracurricular activates have helped boost the confidence of students and also improve the academic standard of the school,” added Rimal.
Additionally, the child club members also offer counseling to the students failing to attend schools regularly or dropping out. The child club members, as teachers put it, have helped create a student-friendly environment in the school where learning-teaching activities has never been easier and merrier.
“Students no longer hesitate to express their ignorance towards the subject matter with teachers while teachers are also more accountable to students and their individual performance”, shared Rijal.
Watch dog and moral compass
No wonder the child club members are also shouldering the responsibilities of a watch dog and moral compass on their young shoulders.
Each child club has 11 executive members. They form a sub-committee in each class above Grade 6, which oversees the management of the classroom. Even in the absence of the teacher, the classes in the schools do not came to halt as the club members impart knowledge about the rights and responsibilities to their peers during those times.
It offers counseling to the students failing to attend schools regularly or dropping their school midway. The child club members, in addition, have helped create a student-friendly environment in the school where the teaching-learning activities have never been easier.
“Students no longer hesitate to express their ignorance towards the subject matter with teachers while teachers are also accountable to students and their individual performance,â€ added teacher Rijal.
“We observe the activities of the child club with interest and offer suggestions if need be,” said Lekhnath Poudel, Vice-principal of the SDCHSS.
“The club has instilled the sense of reasonability in the children apart from making them aware about their rights, said Forum Coordinator Limbu. “The children who were afraid of voicing their concerns now present their problem and seek for solutions without any hesitation.â€
The child club also plays the role of ‘watch dog’ to school governance. They have banned smoking some 100 metres vicinity of the school premises and also put a ban on the sale and usage of tobacco in the school area.
Teachers who come to class late are barred from taking class. They padlock the class as a protest against the late-comer teacher.
There are altogether 83 child clubs registered in the District Child Welfare Centre, Jhapa. Some 28 more such clubs are in the process of registration, informed Laxmi Kandel, Officer at the Welfare Centre.
There are currently 38 child clubs set up at school level while 63 are serving at community level. Some 2000 children are estimated to be involving in these child clubs, according to Officer Kandel.
An annual assembly of such child clubs is also called every year in the district to coordinate the activities.
Agent of change
“The child clubs have promoted the leadership quality in the children as well as help promote a feeling of goodwill,â€ shared officer Kandel.
While these social change agents are trying to make some difference in Jhapa, they are also setting an example to other some 41 per cent of the children below 16 years that ‘every little counts’.