As Nelson Mandela rightly said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
Working with the motive to help the children and teenagers from marginalized Himalayan communities to take a step towards changing the world is EduLift.
EduLift is a non-profit educational initiative dedicated to transforming and empowering the lives of young people and children from marginalized communities by providing various holistic programs, especially skills and competencies, to better prepare the students for their transition to the corporate, business and the real world.
We recently had a fruitful phone conversation with the program manager of EduLift Jamyang Tenzin, who gave us a detailed picture of this revolutionary educational organization.
Read on to know all there is to know about EduLift!
Can you please introduce yourself?
I am Jamyang Tenzin and I am the program manager at EduLift. I came to Nepal in 2016 looking for my mother. I then started my journey here at EduLift almost 5 years back.
How did the concept of EduLift come about?
If we look into the educational system of Nepal, it is questionable. Lot of things are changing in the country, the income propensity of people have changed but the education system is still the same. That is when we thought why not work on lifting the education system of Nepal. Instead of rigid syllabus based and grade focused system we decided to take a different turn and focus more on skills and competencies
So EduLift is an educational platform that focuses on developing and enhancing the life skills and competencies of the students to better prepare them for their future and transition from the academic world to the real corporate and business world. We started off with marginalized Himalayan and Tibetan communities now since the past two years we have also started working with marginalized Nepali communities through collaboration with Nepali NGOs. To be specific, we started with two to three community schools around Boudha area, which are fully run and by the Himalayan people.
Can you list out some of the projects conducted by EduLift?
Within 6 years we have directly impacted more than one thousand six hundred students, more than one hundred teachers ( primary and secondary) and have worked in 4 different districts across Nepal which includes Gorkha, Kavre, Kathmandu and Mustang. We have worked with 10 different community schools.
What makes EduLift different from other educational institutions?
It is true that there are a lot of educational institutes in Nepal and most of them are doing really great like Karkhana to name one. However, what a lot of other educational organizations do is that they establish institutes with different beneficiaries. For instance, in terms of EduLift our very first and primary beneficiaries are the children from Himalayan community. And that specific beneficiary that we have is something that makes us different.
Similarly, all our programs are cost free, we don’t charge a penny. And our programs require individual will and initiative.
How did you initially start out?
At the very beginning, we started providing tuitions to those who cannot afford getting after school help with their studies. During the course we felt that providing tuition was not sufficient, we then adopted a holistic approach and moved towards teaching the students and the children in a way that is fun and productive, giving them the options of choosing from different curriculums that are often not available in community schools. Our main motive for this was to allow children and students to determine what their interest is in so that they don’t feel forced to study.
What is the business model for EduLift?
We are a non-profit organization, so we get funds from donors for our operation. In addition to this we recently published a curriculum book “Rethinking-Education-a curriculum for 21st century classroom” which we have used to reach out to other organizations and institutions to generate some additional funds for the organization. The curriculum is a supplementary on the cultivation of higher-order thinking skills such as critical thinking, socio-emotional learning and linguistic skills. However, we did not publish the curriculum book with a profit motive, it was more aligned towards the sustainability of EduLift as a non-profit educational organization.
Is there a system in place to measure the impact you have been creating?
We are operating in a sector which requires years to see the impact. So, it’s hard to quantify the impacts we have made. However, in terms of skills and competencies we have seen a lot of changes in our students, especially the ones from Himalayan region. Generally children from those regions are very shy and have difficulty communicating and speaking in front of even a small number of people. But after our program the majority of students have become more confident, their self-esteem has increased and they communicate very well now.
How has the COVID situation affected the operation of EduLift?
Normally all our programs are after school, so we used to visit the schools and have an open session. But now since the schools are closed and mass gathering is banned we cannot conduct our sessions. The only option for us was to shift online and it had its own challenges. Our team was ready to take things online however the problem is for the students and the teachers. We had a teachers’ meeting a few months ago and they clearly mentioned that they are not ready for online classes. The reason for this was trying out a completely new approach. But with time we have been able to convince them. So, rather than COVID bringing in challenges I’d say it has brought in opportunities to learn and try new things. So, we are focused more on those programs that allow the teachers and school administrators to participate in the program along with the students.
What is your team strength?
As of now we are five people running the venture. Our workspace comprises in house and out house team members all of whom are young, each has their own area of expertise. Similarly we have two Nepali staff and two Tibetan staff which makes it easy for us to communicate with the wider communities inside Nepal.
What are your future plans for EduLift?
In Nepal there is a gap between education and the education system. So, in future we aim to bridge that gap. We aim to provide the necessary life and employability skills to the younger generation that would definitely benefit them individually and along with this will also benefit the wider community. For this we have plans of increasing our collaboration with other organizations. And we will also be working more with Nepali marginalized communities in the near future.
You have been a part of EduLift for almost 5 years now. How has your journey been so far?
It has been a great journey full of learnings. Coming from a different country, Nepal was a completely new place for me, but now after all these years I can say that Nepal is a land full of opportunities. I sometimes find it confusing that the youths opt to go abroad looking for opportunities when they are easily available here.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
In the present day, no matter which industry you are working in, collaboration is the key. Rather than competing we should focus more on collaborations that will create synergy and will not only help the collaborating organizations but the community, nation and economy as a whole. And we should always be willing to try new and different things.
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Interviewed and Article by Trishna Shakya