People often say you should introduce change gradually, but that’s not always possible, or desirable, in a school.
Before we began working with Jana Uddhar, if a teacher was absent, their class simply went without a teacher. As a result, each week, dozens of lessons went untaught. In fact these lessons were known as ‘leisure periods’, and students sometimes took the term literally and just went home.
This was completely unacceptable to us. Every lesson must have a teacher present, and that teacher must he teaching their lesson. This was not a change we could introduce incrementally. Either you have a policy where every lesson has a teacher, or you don’t. And so the teachers agreed to take one substitute lesson each week if one of their colleagues was absent. So in the first week we went from a 0% policy to a 100% policy.
And it was a tough week. One teacher tried to take his students out of class to tidy up the library. Another thought is was more important to help hand out new uniform than go to his lesson. Another wanted to write up the school routine, rather than teach his class. Another wanted to use his students to fix something in the school grounds.
Since then, we’ve enforced this policy without exception, and as a result, on average, around 25 lessons are being taught each week, which previously would simply have gone untaught. That’s 2.5 extra lessons for each student, compared to last year.
The graph below shows two things; the number of extra lessons the students have received compared to last year, and the number of lessons Nepali government teachers typically miss. The interesting thing that their absence is not usually their fault – the government gives them 12 days casual leave a year, they are sometimes called for training out of school and they often have to go to the District Education Office on the other side of the city to collect documents or sign papers. So the problem is significant, but largely the responsibility of the government, rather than the teachers themselves.