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News 2 > Global Teacher Prize - Finalists > 2019 Finalists Global Teacher Prize > Shamser Bahadur Thapa

Shamser Bahadur Thapa

Nepal - Heaven Hill Academy, Gaunshahar
Shamser Bahadur Thapa - Nepal
Shamser Bahadur Thapa - Nepal

Shamser’s own traumatic childhood experiences convinced him that violence is never the best way to educate children – and he has made it his mission to promote violence-free schooling in Nepal.

Beaten for missing books that he could not afford, he grew to hate school and would hide in the rice fields to avoid it, which led to his falling behind in achievement. However, when he was 16, he met an English teacher who did not use physical violence. Shamser admired this and it changed his perspective on school, motivating him to study English and become the sort of teacher who could inspire other children. After nine years of work to self-finance his studies he achieved his goal of becoming a teacher, but after working a school in Besishahar, he was again disappointed with the violence that other teachers would use against students.

Shamser turned his frustration into action and founded two schools – New Vision Academy, with 25 students in nursery and kindergarten, and Heaven Hill Academy with over 100 students from nursery to Grade 4. These schools grant free education to rural children, breaking the boundaries of segregation and class society that are enforced in Nepal by the caste system and by differing financial and social backgrounds. This gives poor and lower caste Nepalese access to quality education, including the so-called “untouchables”, which make up 50% of inhabitants in his area. Most importantly, Shamser fights for the abolition of hitting practices in schools, because they violate the dignity of the children and create a negative learning environment that inhibits development of self-esteem and self-empowerment.

Shamser’s school is the first school in Nepal to abandon traditional authoritarian teaching methods. As the head of Heaven Hill, he has endured opposition from the local community and educational authorities who want to maintain old-fashioned forms of educating and discipline. However, he has received support from headteachers in other areas, with whom he has a dialogue concerning teaching practices. The main challenge the school faces is a lack of funding – but Shamser does receive a high level of support from (professional) volunteers from all over the world, who bring a variety of knowledge and expertise and educate the children in using computers. The students practice English on a daily basis and are exposed to different cultures to develop an open and curious mindset.

If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, Shamser would invest in materials to finish his current building project for Grade 5 and 6 classrooms so that children can stay on at the school for longer. He would also provide scholarships, invest in training new teachers, and introduce a feeding program to provide healthy lunches for all students, as the lack of nutrition is a big problem in Nepal. In the longer term, he would like to offer exchanges with students from other countries, and start building a school in another district at the end of the year.

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