Shamser Bahadur Thapa was one of the Top 50 finalists of the Teacher Prize 2018. He has been a strong voice against the exposure of children to punishment.
Based on his own traumatic experiences with education, Shamser has made it his mission to promote violence-free education in Nepal and has opened two schools to achieve the same.
Shamser was born to a farming family in Gaunshahar, Nepal. He attended a local public school and spent his time in the morning and evening helping his family in the farm. He grew up hating school because he was constantly beaten for missing his books. He would often hide in the rice fields, just to avoid being punished in front of the whole class.
However, at the age of 16, his perception towards education changed forever. He met an English teacher who was kind and did not punish students, but instead taught them with respect. Greatly inspired by this teacher, Shamser was motivated to study hard and become a teacher who could inspire the coming generation of learners.
After nine years of hard work to finance his studies, Shamser finally became a teacher. He began working in a school in Besishahar. But he was disappointed to see the punishments that he had experienced during his school days, still in practice.
Working for a cause
To make things better and to change the way education works, Shamser established two schools. His main aim was to teach students the ‘non-violent’ means of education. He founded the New Vision Academy and the Heaven Hill Academy. Through these schools, Shamser began imparting free education to the rural children while breaking the boundaries of segregation and class society that was followed in that area.
Shamser’s Heaven Hill Academy school went on to become the first school in Nepal to abandon traditional authoritarian practices. Shamser faced opposition from the local authorities and other educational establishments who wanted him to teach in the old, traditional ways. However, he decided to remain firm about his teaching methodologies.
Despite these challenges, Shamser received support from several like-minded headmasters from the area, with whom he discussed issues relating to the teaching practices.
Help from volunteers
The main challenge they face is funding. However, due to the school's immense dedication towards making a change in society, it receives great financial support from professional volunteers from all over the world.
Volunteers also offer help by bringing in a variety of knowledge and expertise to educate students on how to use computers. The students are also taught in English on a regular basis and are exposed to several cultures to develop a mindset on various kinds of learning outcomes.
Shamser’s efforts have impacted the lives of several underprivileged children. The school currently provides the poor and lower caste Nepalese children access to education, which also includes the untouchable children, who are in majority in the area.
Most importantly, Shamser fights for the elimination of some practices in schools, such as hitting and punishments, as he firmly believes that it violates the dignity of children and creates a negative learning environment, hindering children’s self-empowerment and self-esteem.
This article was originally published in TheTeacher.in magazine in the month of July, 2019.