Science Sans Frontiers: Expanding the Spirit of Science in the Remote Regions

By Hari Pandey and Ranjit K. Sahu

Though the advances in science benefit the human society at large, the marginal return in developed countries is far less compared to the developing or under developed countries. The reason being that the benefits of the scientific breakthroughs have already been reaped in the former. However, the developing and under developed countries have the great advantage in being able to avoid the time lag that occurs from the conceptualization of  a technological breakthrough to its final applications in the social context. One such recent advance that has penetrated societies across the globe is the availability of networking through social sites. Many instances of abuse of social networking have been highlighted in the past and will be done in the future too. Yet, like all inventions, there are possibilities of using them for general welfare.  The ability of social networking in fostering ties between people separated by geopolitical boundaries, for scientific and education purposes, is one such area.

Education continues to be a luxury in many parts of the world where it is directly required to achieve the sustainable goals visualized by organizations like the United Nations. Infrastructure and other facilities are a limitation in many regions of the world, where economy, terrain climate, and geological features determine their availability to the students. The advances in technology have brought forth a plethora of resources to modern students and with Internet being a major source of information, the scope to innovate and adapt new methods of education has increased immensely. While many governments are now taking positive and effective steps to address these issues, more human factors like motivation and inspiration along with mentoring and counseling in non-conventional ways have been overlooked considerably. At best, these have been taken for granted and viewed as the stipulated duty of the teachers and mentors working in the school. However, a little imagination and allocation of very little resources can often help to undertake small steps to motivate students in these remote regions that can have positive outcomes in terms of providing inspiration and mentorship. This is especially true for the young adults who are curious about the world while at the same time full of fear and anxiety about their future, the peer and social pressures on their performance being a constant factor. While advancement in science has now been proving to provide diminishing returns in the developed world in terms of improving quality of life, its contribution  still remain vital to provide basic necessities in the developing world.

In most parts of the developing world, education is still considered as the path to a better life and improved prospectus with job being the primary target. Under these situations, the relevance of science for the long term benefits is often lost. Moreover, science is considered as expensive, unaffordable or complex creating an inhibition in the minds of people of these regions to pursue it with their full potential. Though there is a huge human resource available with many youngsters with considerable knowledge, ability and enthusiasm, the absence of moral boosters has significantly reduced them from undertaking science as a career. Considering these factors and utilizing the social networking abilities, a program to provide an interaction between scientific research personnel, an education enthusiast, the teachers and administration and students was visualized and implemented in the school in Giranchaur, a far flung hamlet in the earthquake prone region of Nepal. The region has been devastated in the recent earthquake and people are slowly returning to their normal life style .Under these circumstances, motivating students for studying science is both a necessity as well as a challenge.

There are lots of ways to motivate the student to begin a career in science and develop an interest in scientific studies. Among the many approaches the one common and used by most science teachers is that they narrate the biography of the scientists. At times they also provide books and other audio visual aids to the student about the life of scientists. However the curiosity of the students varies from one another. Some students exhibit a higher level of curiosity which can only be quenched by interaction with persons having a higher level of knowledge like a research professional, an academician or a scientist. This would allow the activation of the different sense like sight, smell, touch and hearing during the communication process between the student and the scientists resulting in effective transmission of information as the process would be a multi organ involving one.

Students in far flung rural communities in the developing countries do not however have the access and privilege to meet such individuals.  Thus these school students never get the exposure of people from the world outside their communities. This denies them of a vital step in the process of getting closer to science. Some students wonder if scientists are alive and exist in the world in real life. They would be motivated to pursuit science if they can see these individuals in real life and have an opportunity to interact with them.

Giranhaur located about 70 km from the capital city Kathmandu lies among the beautiful mountains surrounded by two rivers, Indrawati and Jarkhe Khola. A road exists from kathmandu to Sindhukhola. Visitors have to trek for about an hour from Sindhukhola to reach Giranchaur by climbing several hills. It is surrounded by green forests and two rivers. The climate of this place is sub-tropical with cool, mild weather prevailing for most part of the year. Different varieties of crops, vegetables and fruits are grown here and different kinds of herbs like tetipati, stinging nettle, etc., are found here. It has been the most devastating earthquake, which resulted in every house being affected. The village has no big commercial centers and still has the traditional shops and vendors. In the context of this village, science and technology has been growing with the time and many people involved in farming now a days have begun to use tractors, fertilizers and other modern amenities in agriculture. There is a growing use of scientific knowledge and mostly with respect to farming practice is being used to enhance farming process. Communication systems have been improving with most of the people now having mobile phones to communicate with friends and families within the country and abroad countries. The school now has included computer subjects in the curricula and made it compulsory. Keeping in view these developments and the requirement for generating further interest among students in science, activities were planned by the school staff and principal with Mr. Hari Pandey taking an initiative in this regard.

Mr. Pandey believes every learner is different and focusses on auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners. He is not only a traditional teacher but its very amicable with students and often interacts in informal manner to eliminate boredom from the class.

Using the social networking site on internet the visit of a tourist cum scientist was used as a tool to inspire the students about future careers in science. It served as a means to help them understand how scientists think, look and behave as humans and are not the stereotype often projected in mass media to enable them to visualize themselves as future scientists.

After the visit, the students were asked for their reactions to the scientists visit. When asked what they obtained from the workshop/interaction, they responded positively with smiles. One student replied, “Sir, I have touched him. I have not only seen the scientists but also touched him”. Another student, when asked about the most motivating point that was made to him, by the scientist replied, “His accessibility, the way he interacted, and the way he told us about his life and work. He is also like us. If he can do science then why can’t we?”

Thus, the approach seems a remarkably, effective way to induce an interest in science among students.

Photos:

  1. The uphill trail to Giranchaur. B. View of the river Indravati from the trail. C. Mr. Pandey and Dr.Sahu interacting with students and D. A student responding to questions from several persons about his future plan

 

About the Authors:

Hari Pandey: Pandeyhari41@gmail.com is an engineering graduate, currently involved with teaching science to grades 7-10 (as a volunteer teacher) in the Mahakali High School, Giranchaur, Sindhupalchouk District Nepal through a program called Teach for Nepal. His interests include motivating students to explore the avenues of science apart from his routine responsibilities. He believes in teaching practical lessons with materials available in nature, and in science lab with laboratory materials.

Dr. Ranjit K. Sahu: is a freelance writer currently located in Virginia, USA. His interests include education, environment, sustainability and health care in the underprivileged regions of the world.

 

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One Comment

  1. Srinibash Das says:

    Indeed a great write-up. From the infancy the children have integrated quality. That I also observe during my visit to that school in Giarnhur at Nepal. I was surprise by the question the children of 9th grade asked to Dr. Sahu Sir ( Why you don’t work for your county why for America). I liked the curiosity of the children that they wanted to know from a scientist. Hope all are well and fine! Miss you all hope to revisit soon.

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