Anil is a Values-based Educator working hard in Nepal. We often correspond and I thought that his recent email to me deserves a wider audience, as it raises the question about how we can develop values-based schools when the dominant culture supports practices such as ‘Chau Padi’? This is his disturbing account:
Thank you for your good writings. I read them with great interest. I must say they are really useful to me as well.
I was in the Western hills for the teacher training workshop and just came in Kathmandu yesterday. Your writing ‘Inner Curriculum’ sounds quite significant to solve the teaching learning problems and issues in Nepal’s present context. In fact it can be very useful to the teachers, guardians, students and policy makers who want to challenge the traditional schooling system.
I am also in the campaign to promote ‘positive school culture’ & this time I had interesting interactions with the teachers. Their experiences were -society’s culture severely interferes with school culture.
A woman teacher shared her experience in this regard. Her community in the remote hills follows a custom “Chhau Padi” It is the tradition that the female are exiled from the home for the five days during menstruation as they are completely untouchable in these days. They are boycotted from the family and households works. During these days, they have to stay in a hut far from the village. According to that teacher, they are strictly prohibited in taking food like dairy products, meat, fruits and some kinds of vegetables. Females are often physically, mentally and psychologically distracted during these days. Moreover there are numbers of casualties of death of females in ‘Chhau Padi’ due to the snake bite, attack of snarling beasts, rape, over bleeding and other health problems.
That very woman teacher teaches in school about the bad effects of ‘Chau Padi’ and why it should be abolished from the society as the topic is in the text book of the children but she herself goes to the ‘exile’ for five days every month! It is because she is compelled to follow the culture strictly by her family and community. So for the existence and survival in the society, she is following this culture though she is strictly against it and knows that it is promoting bad values like woman discrimination, woman violence and so on.
Another woman teacher had the similar experience. In her community it is the culture that the mother and infant are ‘untouchable’ for eleven days if newborn is son and nine days if daughter. She had complication during delivery of her child. She hardly convinced her family members to take medical support in health post. After an emergency operation, she gave birth to twins. When she was discharged from the health post, she had to carry her all beddings, luggage along with twins because her husband and mother-in-law did not touch her as it was not eleven days. She recalled the difficult moment when it was so hard for her to reach home from the far health post, walking and carrying all the loads. She was, tired, thirsty, hungry and about to faint many times but even her husband and mother- in- law did not show her mercy because they did not want to ‘break the rules of tradition!’
The teachers asked me how the teachers can promote the ‘so called’ positive school culture, when the society has such terrible cultural values. Neil, how we can help the teachers.
I did reply to Anil – I wonder what your reaction is to the practice of Chau Padi? What is the responsibility of schools in these situations?